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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his name, an elephant trampling upon
a Gallic war trumpet with a serpent's
head, symbolizing his utter defeat of
the Gauls and conquest of the country.
To the end of the Empire Roman
emperors adopted the name Caesar as
a title ; and it survives in two imperial
titles of modern times, "Kaiser," of
Germany and Austria, and "Czar,"
of Russia. What an impress the life
of Julius Caesar made upon the world — not merely to leave
a heritage of influence in government and literature, but to
transmit his very name across the
ages as a designation of the highest
authority recognized among men !


272. After Caesar became supreme,
almost innumerable likenesses of him
must have been made. Statues of
him were ordered set up in all cities,
as well as in the temples of Rome ;
his features were not only stamped
on coins but engraved upon gems Cem . Behind is an augur's staff.

(Fig. 165). symbolic of his priestly authority.

Of the numerous extant busts and statues bearing Caesar's
name, however, only a few can be considered authentic.


Caesar's Commentaries


Though two of the best of these, a colossal bust at Naples
and a large statue in Rome, have been somewhat restored, the
expression of face has not been materially affected ; a bust in
the British Museum, representing Caesar at a somewhat later
period of life, is singularly well preserved.

In the statue in Rome (shown in the frontispiece of this book,
Plate I) Caesar appears as a commander. To judge from the
manner of treatment, both this statue and the bust at Naples
(Plate X) were made near the end of the first century a.d.,
but copied from earlier works.


273. The Commentaries of Caesar were not designed to be a
biographical work, nor yet, strictly speaking, a military history.
They were rather, as the title Commentaries of Deeds, Com-
mentarii Rerum Gestarum, implies, an informal record of events.
For commentarius comes
from commentor, a verb
used by speakers with the
meaning make preparation
for a speech by gathering
material and preparing
outlines ; whence liber
commentarius, or commen-
tarius, commentary, came
to designate a collection of
materials for future use.

Had Caesar intended
that the Commentaries
should be a formal his-
tory, the matter, in ac-
cordance with the universal custom of antiquity, would have
been arranged in such a way that the books would be of about
the same length ; but he grouped his material by years, without
regard to the length of the divisions, and we find that the first
book, or Commentary, is as long as the second and third com-

Figure 166. — A Case for Books.
With cover and straps for carrying. In the case
are seven rolls, volumina, corresponding with the_
number of the Commentaries on the Gallic War.
A writing tablet leans against the case.

604 Companion to Caesar [§ 274

bined, while the seventh is almost as long as the second, third,
and fourth taken together. Approximate uniformity in the
length of the books comprised in a literary work was usual on
account of convenience in handling, since each book formed a
separate roll ; hence the name for the roll or book, volumen
(from volvo, roll up), which survives in our word " volume "
(Fig. 166).

274. Nevertheless it is evident that the Commentaries were
not prepared as a diary, for private use, but written at one
time and intended for circulation. We are safe in believing
that Caesar intended through them not only to give to the pub-
lic an authoritative account of the important events treated, but
also to supply to historians of the period a collection of authen-
tic material on which they might draw; hence, perhaps, the
peculiar restraint under which he refers to himself in the third
person, a practice as rare in narratives of the kind in antiquity
as it is to-day ; hence, also, presumably, the frequent use of
indirect discourse near the beginning, while in the later books
the style is more often enlivened, as generally in Greek and
Latin historical works, by direct quotation {211, b).

275. The Seven Commentaries of the Gallic War were prob-
ably composed soon after the fall of Alesia, in the winter of
52-51 B.C. ; they were probably taken down from dictation
and circulated through the multiplication of copies from the
original copy or copies sent from Gaul to Rome in 51.

276. The Civil War was seemingly incomplete at the time of
Caesar's death ; only two Commentaries, narrating the events
of 49 and 48 B.C., were finished. Later the first Commentary,
dealing with the events of 49, was divided into two books, the
other remaining undivided ; consequently in manuscripts and
editions the Civil War now appears in three books, the first and
second being devoted to the events of 49, the third to those
of 48 b.c.

277. A gap of two years was left between the Commentaries
of the Gallic War, covering the period 58-52 h.c, and those of
the Civil War, covering the years 49 and 48. This was filled


Caesar's Commentaries


by Aulus Hirtius, who added to the Gallic War an eighth book
narrating briefly the events of 51 and 50 b.c. in Gaul. Other
writers afterwards extended the Civil War also by adding nar-
ratives of Caesar's military operations
in Egypt, Africa, and Spain.

278. Notwithstanding Caesar's aim
in composing the Commentaries as
source books rather than finished
works, the clearness, conciseness, and
vigor of his style, and the importance
of the matter, have given them a place
in the first rank of historical writings.
Of the Commentaries on the Gallic
War Cicero wrote {Brut. lxxv. 262) :

Figure 167. — Coin com-
memorating the assassi-
nation of Caesar.

Struck by an officer of Marcus
Junius Brutus. A " cap of lib-
erty " appears between two dag-
gers. Inscription : EID • MAR,
Ides of March.'

"They are worthy of all praise. They
are unadorned, straightforward, and elegant,
every embellishment being stripped off as a
garment. Caesar desired, indeed, to furnish
others, who might wish to write history, with
material upon which they might draw; and perhaps men without good
taste, who like to deck out facts in tawdry graces of expression, may
think that he has rendered a service to historians by providing them with
raw material, but he has deterred men of sound sense from trying to
improve on the Commentaries in literary expression. For in history a
pure and brilliant conciseness of style is the highest attainable beauty."

279. The question has been much discussed whether or not
in the Commentaries Caesar warped the truth in self-justifica-
tion. No one will deny that he had a complete command of
the facts, and that, when the Commentaries on the Gallic War
were published, there were many officers and men who would
instantly have detected untruths and condemned them. Caesar
seems to have been too large a man to condescend to misrepre-
sentation even in narrating his own defeats, as at Gergovia
and Dyrrachium ; while there may have been occasional lapses
of memory in respect to details, we have no reason to question
the substantial accuracy of the Commentaries as historical doc-

606 Companion to Caesar [§ 280

The Commentaries themselves convey no impression of ex-
aggeration. Plutarch, who had at hand other sources of in-
formation, no longer extant, thus summarizes the results of the
Gallic war :

" Caesar was engaged in the Gallic war less than ten years.
In that time he captured more than eight hundred towns,
brought into submission three hundred peoples, fought against
three million foes, killed a million, and took a million prisoners."

Caesar took part in thirty battles.


280. As an orator Caesar was rated second only to Cicero.
His orations have perished ; but apart from other evidence a
favorable judgment of Caesar's oratorical style might be formed
from the speech which he puts into the mouth of Critognatus
(VII. 77), and the outline of the argument by which he quelled
an incipient mutiny (I. 40).



281. The Geography of the Commentaries on the Gallic
War touches Italy, Cisalpine Gaul, Illyricum, and Transalpine
Gaul ; that of the Civil War touches also Spain, Macedonia,
Epirus and Thessaly, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, and Africa.

282. Caesar frequently uses the name of a people for that
of the country inhabited by them, where English usage ex-
pects the word " country " or " land " or an equivalent ; as qui
agrum Helvetium a Germanis dividit, which separates the Helve-
tian territory from that of the Germans, lit. from the Germans
(I. 2) ; unum per Sequanos, one {route) through the country of
the Sequanians, lit. through the Sequanians (I. 6).


283. Caesar uses Italia, Italy, in two senses :

a. Italy in the narrower sense as a political unit (C. I. 6),
Italy proper, having as its northern boundary on the east side
the small river Rubicon, on the west the lower course of the
river Auser, and between the two rivers a line running a short
distance south of Luca (modern Lucca).

b. Italy in the geographical sense (I. 10), designating the
entire peninsula as far as the Alps, and including Cisalpine
Gaul in addition to Italy proper.

284. Cisalpine Gaul is designated by Caesar as Cisalpina
Gallia (VI. 1), Gallia citerior, Hither Gaul (I. 24), and citerior
provincia, the nearer province (I. 10). It comprised the great
drainage area of the Padus, Po (V. 24), extending from Italy
proper to the Alps. The entire region was brought under



Companion to Caesar


Roman domination in the second century b.c, but Cisalpine
Gaul was not joined with Italy politically till the reign of

285. Of the cities of Cisalpine Gaul Caesar mentions two,
Aquileia (I. 10), at the head of the Adriatic Sea, chief city
of the Cisalpine Veneti, who gave their name to modern
"Venice" ; and Ocelum (I. 10), in the extreme western part.


286. Transalpine Gaul is designated by Caesar as Trans-
alpina Gallia (VII. 6), Gallia Transalpina (VII. 1) ; Gallia ulterior
(I. 7), and ulterior Gallia (1. 10), Further Gaul; or simply Gallia,

Gaul (I. 1). It extended from the
Alps and the Rhine to the Atlantic
Ocean, comprising the countries now
known as France and Belgium, the
German possessions west of the Rhine,
and the greater part of Switzerland
and Holland. In this book where
" Gaul " stands alone, Transalpine Gaul
is meant. (See Map inside back cover).
After the conquest, Gallia as a sub-
ject country was personified as a female
figure, sometimes with the character-
istic Gallic war-trumpet, as on a coin
struck in Rome in 48 b.c. (Fig. 168) ; here only the head
is shown, with long hair, dishevelled, the war-trumpet being
behind the head.

287. On account of differences in speech, and other char-
acteristics, Caesar describes Transalpine Gaul as divided into
three parts :

a. Tlie land of the Belgians, Belgium, in the northeast, ex-
tending from the rivers Sequana, Seine, and Matrona, Mornc
to the river Rhenus, Rhine. The Belgium described by Caesar
was much larger than the modern country. The ancient Bel-

Figure 168. — Conquered
Gaul, personified.

Behind the head is a Gallic
war-trumpet. Denarius, 48 b.c

§ 289] Geography of the Commentaries 609

gian stock survives in the Walloons. The language was mostly

b. The land of the Galli, the Celtic country, Celtic Caul, ex-
tending from the Seine and Marne to the river Garumna,
Garonne. This part is often called Gallia (I. 1, 1. 20 ; I. 30).
The numerous dialects of Celtic Gaul belonged to the great
Celtic family, which has modern representatives in Armoric,
spoken in Brittany, and the Welsh language.

c. The land of the Aquitanians, Aquitania, extending from
the Garonne River to the Pyrenees. The language of the
Aquitanians seems to have been related to the Basque.

288. a. The three divisions of Gaul were made up of many
small states, civitates, each of which had its own political
organization. A number of the states had their own coinage
in gold and other metals ; but the coins were mostly imita-
tions of those struck by Greek states and Rome.

b. In Celtic Gaul the governing power was in the hands of
two classes, the knights and the Druid priests ; the condition
of the common people was not much above slavery (VI. 13).

289. a. Government in Gaul was administered by magi-
strates, magistrates, chosen by the dominant classes, such as
the Vergobrets (I. 16) ; a few of the more backward states
had kings, regis, as Galba, king of the Suessiones (II. 4), and
Commius, king of the Atrebates (IV. 21).

b: In some states there was a council of elders, senatus
(II. 5).

c. Politically Gaul in Caesar's time was in a condition of
unrest. Usurpations of power and changes of rulers were
frequent (II. 1). Not only in the different states but in the
subdivisions of states, and even in powerful families, there
were party divisions (VI. 11), from which strifes of great bit-
terness arose. A conspicuous example is the irreconcilable
antagonism between the brothers Diviciacus and Dumnorix (I.
18), of whom the former did everything possible to advance
Caesar's interests (II. 5, 10), while the latter, as leader of an
anti-Roman party among the Aeduans, sought in all ways to

610 Companion to Caesar [§290

thwart Caesar, until finally he was killed, while resisting cap-
ture, by Caesar's cavalry (V. 7).

290. The southeastern part of Gaul, not specified in Caesar's
threefold division, had been conquered by the Romans and
organized into a province in 121 b.c. This was the only part
of Transalpine Gaul that properly came under Caesar's juris-
diction when he went out as governor in 58 b.c. (255). It is
designated by Caesar as Gallia provincia (I. 19) or provincia
Gallia (I. 53), the Gallic Province ; as ulterior provincia, the
Further Province (I. 10), provincia nostra, our Province (I. 2), or
simply provincia, the Province (I. 1).

291. Of the mountains of Gaul the most important are.
Alpes, the Alps (I. 10), of which the western and southern
portion, the French and the Swiss Alps, were known to Caesar ;
mons Cebenna, the Cevennes (VII. 8), in Southern Gaul ; mona
Iura, the Jura Mountains (I. 2), extending from the Rhone below
Geneva northeast to the Rhine ; mons Vosegus, the Vosges
(IV. 10), west of the Rhine and north of the Jura range ;
Pyrenaei montes, the Pyrenees, on the border toward Spain

(i. i).

292. The more important rivers of Gaul mentioned by Caesar
are : Rhodanus, the Phone (I. 2), which flows through lacus
Lemannus, Lake Geneva (I. 2), and empties into the Mediter-
ranean ; Arar. Sadne (I. 12), a tributary of the Rhone, which
it enters from the north ; Sequana, the Seine (I. 1) ; Matrona,
Marne (I. 1), a tributary of the Seine, which it enters from the
east ; Azona, Aisne (II. 5), a tributary of the Oise, which in
turn flows into the Seine from the northeast, below the conflu-
ence with the Marne ; Rhenus, Rhine (1. 1) ; Garumna, Garonne
(I. 1) ; Liger, Loire (III. 9), the largest river of Gaul, flowing
into the Bay of Biscay ; Mosa, Meuse (IV. 9), in northeastern
Gaul ; Sabis, Sambre, a tributary of the Meuse, which it enters
from the west (II. 16).

293. The cities of Gaul in Caesar's time were situated on or
near a coast, on a river, or on the top of a high mountain. The
more noteworthy were :

§ 294] Geography of the Commentaries


a. In the Province: Massilia, Marseilles (C. II. 3), founded
by Greeks from Phocaea about 600 B.C., a prosperous city,
which retained its Greek character, carried on an extensive
commerce, and became an impor-
tant civilizing influence (Fig. 169) ;
Narbo, Narbonne (III. 20), on the
river Atax not far from the sea,
colonized by the Romans in 118
B.C. ; Tolosa, Toulouse (III. 20),
on the Garonne river ; Genava,
Geneva (I. 6), on lacus Lemannus,
Lake Geneva (I. 2).

b. In Celtic Gaul : Agedincum,
Sens (VI. 44) ; Alesia, Alise-Sainte-Reine (VII. 68) ; Avaricum,
Bourges (VII. 13) ; Bibracte, on Mt. Beuvray (I. 23) ; Cenabum,
Orleans (VII. 3) ; Decetia, Decize (VII. 33) ; Gergovia (VII. 36) ;
Lutecia Parlsiorum, Paris (VI. 3) ; Vesontio, Besancon (I. 38).

c. In Belgium: Bibrax (II. 6) near the Aisne; Durocorto-
rum, Reims (VI. 44); Noviodunum of the Suessiones, near
Soissons (II. 12) ; Samarobriva, Amiens (V. 24).

Figure 169. — Coin of Massilia.
Silver. Obverse, head of Artemis
with earring's and necklace ; reverse,
lion, prowling, with abbreviation of
the Greek name above, and crescent
in front.


294. Caesar uses Britannia, Britain (II. 4), to designate the
island of Great Britain, including modern England, Scotland,

and Wales. He was the first Ro-
man general to invade the island,
whose inhabitants he found similar
to those of Celtic Gaul in language
and institutions, but not so far ad-
Figure 170.— Early British vanced in civilization (Fig. 170).
Coin. His two expeditions, in 55 and

Silver, of crude workmanship; 54 B.C., had slight apparent effect,

probably in circulation in Caesar's but they stimulated Commerce and
time. J

prepared the way for the introduc-
tion of Roman wares and customs (Fig. 140). The subjuga-
tion of Britain by the Romans began in 43 a.d.

612 Companion to Caesar [§295

295. Caesar uses Germania, Germany (IV. 4), to designate a
country of indefinite extent east of the Rhine and north of the
Danube. He came into contact only with the German peoples
near the Rhine. His two expeditions across the Rhine, in 55
and 53 B.C., produced slight effect ; the Romans never conquered
more of Germany than a narrow strip along the Rhine and the

296. Ancient Spain, Hispania, included modern Spain and
Portugal. After the Roman Conquest, about 200 b.c, it was
divided into two provinces, citerior Hispania, Hither Spain (III.
23), including the northern and eastern part of the peninsula,
and ulterior Hispania, Further Spain (C. I. 38), on the south
and west.

297. Caesar sometimes uses Hispania, Spain, to designate the
peninsula as a whole (V. 1) : sometimes the plural, Hispaniae,
the Spains (C. III. 73), referring to the two Spanish provinces.


298. illyricum was a narrow province that bordered Cisalpine
Gaul for a short distance at the head of the Adriatic Sea, and
extended down the east side of the Adriatic as far as the river
Drilo, Drin. It included parts of modern Albania, Montene-
gro, Herzegovina, Dalmatia, Croatia, and Istria. It came under
Roman control about 167 b.c.

299. Belonging, in Caesar's time, to the province of Mace-
donia, was a strip of coast between Illyricum and Epirus with
the important cities Apollonia (C. III. 75), about five milefl
from the sea, and Dyrrachium, Durazzo (C. III. 53), on the
coast (Map 19).

300. Epirus was the northernmost division of Greece on tin-
west side ; it occupied a part of modern Albania. It was con-
quered by the Romans in 168 b.c. (Map 19).

Towns of Epirus mentioned by Caesar are Buthrotum (C. III.
16) and Oricum (C. III. 90), both on the coast (Map 19).

301. Thessalia, Thessaly, in northeastern Greece, corre-
sponded roughly with the division of modern Greece called

§306] Geography of the Commentaries 613

by the same name. Towns of Thessaly mentioned by Caesar
are Gomphi (C. III. 80), Larisa, Larissa (C. III. 96), and Me-
tropolis (C. III. 80). Cf. Map 19.


302. The Romans used Asia in three senses, designating :
(a.) The continent Asia, as we use the name to-day.

(6.) 'The western projection of the continent, between the
Mediterranean and the Black Sea ; called Asia Minor in order
to distinguish it from the mass of the continent as a whole.

(c.) The Roman province Asia, which was organized in
129 b.c. The Roman province Asia included only the western
part of Asia Minor, with the countries Caria, Lydia, Mysia,
and Phrygia. Caesar uses Asia (C. III. 53) to designate the
Roman province, not Asia Minor or the continent.

303. At the time of the Civil War Bithynia, including a part
of Pontus (C. III. 3), and Cilicia in Asia Minor (C. III. 102)
were already organized as separate provinces.

304. Syria (C. III. 103), including Phoenicia and Palestine,
was conquered by Pompey and became a Roman province
about 64 b.c. At Jerusalem Pompey profaned the Holy of
Holies in the Temple by entering it, but he refrained from
carrying off the treasure. The treasure, however, a few years
later fell a prey to Crassus, who, on his way to attack the
Parthians {258), delayed in Jerusalem in order to rob the

305. Aegyptus, Egypt (C. III. 104), at the time of the Civil
War was an independent kingdom. It was not made subject
to Rome till 29 b.c. Its principal city, Alexandria, Alexandria
(C. III. 103), was founded by Alexander the Great, who gave
to it his name.

306. Caesar uses Africa (C. II. 37) to designate, not the con-
tinent, but the comparatively small Roman province of Africa,
which was organized after the destruction of Carthage in 146 b.c
After the battle of Thapsus and the death of Juba (262) Caesar


Companion to Caesar


made another province* out of the Kingdom of Numidia, which
adjoined the province Africa on the south and west, and after
his death was added to it.

Figure 171. — Africa, personified as a goddess.

As a headdress she wears the spoils of an elephant, with trunk and tusks projecting
above and broad ears falling beside the neck ; over the right shoulder we see, projecting,
the bow of the hunting goddess, Artemis, and the club of Hercules; underneath is the
rattle, sistrum, sacred to Isis.

On her right shoulder is a lion, while an asp rises threateningly above her right hand,
facing a panther that stands on the fruits gathered in the fold of her robe ; these creatures
and the fruits symbolize the wild life and fertility of the Province. Relief on a silver plate.

Africa was personified as a female figure, wearing as a head-
dress the spoils of an elephant (Fig. 171).



307. The legion. — a. The legion, legio (I. 7), in Caesar's
time was composed exclusively of Roman citizens. Probably
Caesar's legionary soldiers, legionarii (C. III. 63) or simply milites
(I. 7), were mainly volunteers who were willing to enlist for
the regular term of twenty years on account of the certainty
of the pay, and of provision for their old age in case they lived
beyond the period of service. However, citizens between the
ages of seventeen and forty-six were liable to be called out by
a levy, dflectus (C. I. 6), at any time. Romans of the upper
classes who wished to serve in the army, or found themselves
unable to evade conscription, were , employed as officers, or
attached to the bodyguard of the commander.

b. The normal strength of a legion at the end of the Re-
public was 6000 men ; but the average number of men in
Caesar's legions probably did not exceed 3600 in the Gallic
War, and 3000 in the Civil War.

c. The legion was divided into ten cohorts, cohortes (III. 1),
averaging, in Caesar's army, about 360 men each ; the cohort
was divided into three maniples, manipuli (II. 25), of 120 men ;
the maniples into two centuries or companies, ordines (I. 40).
In legions having a full complement of men each century
would contain 100 ; in Caesar's army the number could hardly
have averaged more than 60.

d. The legions that had seen long service, apparently not less
than nine or ten years, were called veteran, legiones veteranae
(I. 24) ; the rest, last levied, or raw, legiones proxime con-
scriptae (I. 24), or legiones tironum (C. III. 28). The legions
were designated by number.


616 Companion to Caesar [§308

e. In the first year of the Gallic War Caesar had four veteran
legions, numbered vn., vj^, ix., — these three apparently
brought from the^icinity or Aquileia (I. 10), — and x. ; the
tenth legion was in the Province at the time of his arrival in
Gaul (I. 7). After Caesar learn 3d that the Helvetians pro-
posed to go through the country of the Sequanians an^
Aeduans he hastily raised in Cisalpine Gaul two legions
(I. 10), which were numbered xi. and xn. With these six
legions he gained two of .his most brilliant victories, over the
Helvetians and over Ariovistus.

f. In the second year of the war Caesar raised two new
legions in Cisalpine Gaul (II. 2), numbered xin. and xiv., so

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 52 of 73)