Julius Caesar.

Cæsar's Commentaries on the Gallic and civil wars: online

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The distance from that among the Eburones to that spoken of as being
in Belgium, would bo about 1 80 miles.


that some of our men should go forward to a conference,
[alleging] that they had some things which they desired to say
respecting the common interest, by which they trusted their
disputes could be removed.

CHAP. XXVII. C. Arpineius, a Roman knight, the intimate
friend of Q. Titurius, and with him, Q. Junius, a certain per-
son from Spain, who already on previous occasions, had been
accustomed to go to Ambiorix, at Caesar's mission, is sent to
them for the purpose of a conference : before them Ambiorix
spoke to this effect : " That he confessed, that for Caesar's kind-
ness toward him, he was very much indebted to him, inasmuch as
by his aid he had been freed from a tribute which he had been
accustomed to pay to the Aduatuci, his neighbors ; and be-
cause his own son and the son of his brother had been sent
back to him, whom, when sent in the number of hostages,
the Aduatuci had detained among them in slavery and in
chains ; and that he had not done that which he had done in
regard to the attacking of the camp, either by his own judg-
ment or desire, but by the compulsion of his state ; and that
his government was of that nature, that the people had as
much authority over him as he over the people. To the
state moreover the occasion of the war was this that it could
not withstand the sudden combination of the Gauls ; that he
could easily prove this from his own weakness, since he was
not so little versed in affairs as to presume that with his forces
he could conquer the Roman people ; but that it was the com-
mon resolution of Gaul ; that that day was appointed for the
storming of all Caesar's winter-quarters, in order that no legion
should be able to come to the relief of another legion, that Gauls
could not easily deny Gauls, especially when a measure seemed
entered into for recovering their common freedom. Since he
had performed his duty to them on the score of patriotism [he
said], he has now regard to gratitude for the kindness of Caesar ;
that he warned, that he prayed Titurius by the claims of hos-
pitality, to consult for his and his soldiers' safety ; that a large
force of the Germans had been hired and had passed the
Rhine ; that it would arrive in two days : that it was for them
to consider whether they thought fit, before the nearest people
perceived it, to lead off their soldiers when drawn out of winter-
quarters, either to Cicero or to Labienus ; one of whom was
about fifty miles distant from them, the other rather more;


that this ho promised and confirmed by oath, that he would
give them a safe passage through his territories; and when
he did that, he was both consulting for his own state, because
it would be relieved from the winter-quarters, and also making
a requital to Caesar for his obligations."

CHAP. XXVm. Arpineius and Junius relate to the lieu-
tenants what they had heard. They, greatly alarmed by the
unexpected affair, though those things were spoken by an
enemy, still thought they were not to be disregarded ; and they
were especially influenced by this consideration, that it was
scarcely credible that the obscure and humble state of the
Eburones had dared to make war upon the Roman people of
their own accord. Accordingly, they refer the matter to a coun-
cil, and a great controversy arises among them. L. Aurun-
culeius, and several tribunes of the soldiers and the centurions
of the first rank, were of opinion " that nothing should be done
hastily, and that they should not depart from the camp with-
out Caesar's orders;" they declared, "that any forces of the
Germans, however great, might be encountered by fortified
winter-quarters ; that this fact was a proof [of it] ; that they
had sustained the first assault of the Germans most valiantly,
inflicting many wounds upon them ; that they were not dis-
tressed for oorn ; that in the mean time relief would come both
from the nearest winter-quarters and from Caesar ; lastly, they
put the query, " what could be more undetermined, more un-
dignified, than to adopt measures respecting the most important
affairs on the authority of an enemy ? w

CHAP. XXIX. In opposition to those things, Titurius ex-
claimed, " That they would do this too late, when greater
forces of the enemy, after a junction with the Germans,
should have assembled ; or when some disaster had been re-
ceived in the neighboring winter-quarters; that the opportu-
nity for deliberating was short ; that he believed that Csesar had
set forth into Italy, as the Carnutes would not otherwise have
taken the measure of slaying Tasgetius, nor would the Eburones,
if he had been present, have come to the camp with so great de-
fiance of us ; that he did not regard the enemy, but the fact,
as the authority ; that the Rhine was near ; that the death of
Ariovistus and our previous victories were subjects of great in-
dignation to the Germans ; that Gaul was inflamed, that after
having received so many defeats she was reduced under the



sway of the Roman people, her pristine glory in military matters
being extinguished." Lastly, "who would persuade himself
of this, that Ambiorix had resorted to a design of that nature
without sure grounds ? That his own opinion was safe on
either side ; if there be nothing very formidable, they would
go without danger to the nearest legion ; if all Gaul conspir-
ed with the Germans, their only safety lay in dispatch.
What issue would the advice of Cotta and of those who
differed from him, have ? from which, if immediate danger was
not to be dreaded, yet certainly famine, by a protracted siege,

CHAP. XXX. This discussion having been held on the two
sides, when opposition was offered strenuously by Cotta and
the principal officers, "Prevail," said Sabinus, "if so you
wish it ;" and he said it with a louder voice, that a great
portion of the soldiers might hear him ; " nor am I the person
among you," he said, " who is most powerfully alarmed by the
danger of death ; these will be aware of it, and then, if any
thing disastrous shall have occurred, they will demand a
reckoning at your hands ; these, who, if it were permitted by
you, united three days hence with the nearest winter-quarters,
may encounter the common condition of war with the rest, and
not, as if forced away and separated far from the rest, perish
either by the sword or by famine."

CHAP. XXXL They rise from the council, detain both,
and entreat, that " they do not bring the matter into the
greatest jeopardy by their dissension and obstinacy ; the affair
was an easy one, if only they all thought and approved of the
same thing, whether they remain or depart; on the other
hand, they saw no security in dissension." The matter is pro-
longed by debate till midnight. At last Cotta, being overruled,
yields his assent; 1 the opinion of Sabinus prevails. It is
proclaimed that they will march at day-break ; the remainder
of the night is spent without sleep, since every soldier was in-
specting his property, [to see] what he could carry with him,
and what, out of the appurtenances of the winter-quarters, he

1 " Dat manus," lit. gives his "hands ; an expression derived from the
attitude of the vanquished when holding out their hands in the form of
supplication (more generally, however, tendens than dans manus), or to
receive their chains, which, at once, sealed their Bubmission and preserv-
ed their lives.


would be compelled to leave; every reason is suggested to
show why they could not stay without danger, and how that
danger would be increased by the fatigue of the soldiers and
their want of sleep. At break of day they quit the camp, in a
very extended line and with a very large amount of baggage, in
such a maner as men who were convinced that the advice was
given by Ambiorix, not as an enemy, but as most friendly
[toward them].

CHAP. XXXII. But the enemy, after they had made the
discovery of their intended departure by the noise during the
night and their not retiring lo rest, having placed an ambuscade
in two divisions in the woods, in a suitable and concealed place,
two miles from the camp, waited for the arrival of the Romans :
and when the greater part of the line of march had descended
into a considerable valley, they suddenly presented themselves
on either side of that valley, and began both to harass the rear
and hinder the van from ascending, and to give battle in a place
exceedingly disadvantageous to our men. ^

CHAP. XXXTTT. Then at length Titurius, as one who had
provided nothing beforehand, was confused, ran to and fro, and
set about arranging his troops ; these very things, however, he
did timidly and in such a manner that all resources seemed to
fail him : which generally happens to those who are compelled
to take council in the action itself. But Cotta, who had re-
flected that these things might occur on the march, and on that
account had not been an adviser of the departure, was wanting
to the common safety in no respect ; both in addressing and
encouraging the soldiers, he performed the duties of a general,
and in the battle those of a soldier. . And since they [Titurius
and Cotta] could less easily perform every thing by themselves,
and provide what was to be done in each place, by reason of the
length of the line of march, they ordered [the officers] to give
the command that they should leave the baggage and form them-
selves into an orb, 1 which measure, though in a contingency
of that nature it was not to be condemned, still turned out un-
fortunately ; for it both diminished the hope of our soldiers and

1 When surrounded by an enemy, they threw themselves in an order
called orbis,OT globus, from its form. This is further referred to in ch. xxxvii.
of book iv. of the Gallic peace, and the fifteenth chapter of the African
"War. The phrases are, orbem facere, or, volvere ; in orbem se tutari, or,
eonglobare ; in orbem pugnant ; and, upon halting, in orbem consistent.


rendered the enemy more eager for the fight, because it ap-
peared that this was not done without the greatest fear and
despair. Besides that happened, which would necessarily be
the case, that the soldiers for the most part quitted their en-
signs and hurried to seek and carry off from the baggage
whatever each thought valuable, and all parts were filled with
uproar and lamentation.

CHAP. XXXIV. But judgment was not wanting to the
barbarians ; for their leaders ordered [the officers] to proclaim
through the ranks " that no man should quit his place ; that
the booty was theirs, and for them was reserved whatever the
Romans should leave ; therefore let them consider that all
things depended on their victory. 1 Our men were equal to
them in fighting, both in courage and in number, and though
they were deserted by their leader and by fortune, yet they
still placed all hope of safety in their valor, and as often as any
cohort sallied forth on that side, a great number of the enemy
usually fell. Ambiorix, when he observed this, orders the
command to be issued that they throw their weapons from a
distance and do not approach too near, and in whatever direc-
tion the Romans should make an attack, there give way (from
the lightness of their appointments and from their daily practice
no damage could be done them) ; [but] pursue them when
betaking themselves to their standards again.

CHAP. XXXV. Which command having been most care-
fully obeyed, when any cohort had quitted the circle and made
a charge, the enemy fled very precipitately. In the mean time,
that part of the Roman army, of necessity, was left unprotected,
and the weapons received on their open flank. Again, when
they had begun to return to that place from which they had ad-
vanced, they were surrounded both by those who had retreated
and by those who stood next them ; but if, on the other hand,
they wish to keep their place, neither was an opportunity left
for valor, nor could they, being crowded together, escape the
weapons cast by so large a body of men. Yet, though assailed
by so many disadvantages, [and] having received many wounds,
they withstood the enemy, and, a great portion of the day
being spent, though they fought from day-break till the eighth
hour, they did nothing which was unworthy of them. At
length, each thigh of T. Balventius, who the year before had

1 " Posita," etc., lit. lay in, etc.


been chief centurion, 1 a brave man and one of great authority, is
pierced with a javelin ; Q. Lucanius, of the same rank, fighting
most valiantly, is slain while he assists his son when surrounded
by the enemy ; L. Cotta, the lieutenant, when encouraging all
the cohorts and companies, is wounded full in the mouth by a

CHAP. XXXVI. Much troubled by these events, Q. Titu-
rius, when he had perceived Ambiorix in the distance encourag-
ing his men, sends to him his interpreter, Cn. Pompey, to beg
that he would spare him and his soldiers. He, when addressed,
replied, " If he wishes to confer with him, it was permitted ;
that he hoped what pertained to the safety of the soldiers could
be obtained from the people ; that to him however certainly no
injury would be done, and that he pledged his faith to that
eftect." He consults with Cotta, who had been wounded,
whether it would appear right to retire from battle, and confer
with Ambiorix; [saying] that he hoped to be able to suc-
ceed respecting his own and the soldiers' safety. Cotta
says he will not go to an armed enemy, and in that per-

CHAP. XXXVIE. Sabinus orders those tribunes of the
soldiers whom he had at the time around him, and the cen-
turions of the first ranks, to follow him, and when he had ap-
proached near to Ambiorix, being ordered to throw down his
arms, he obeys the order and commands his men to do the
same. In the mean time, while they treat upon the terms,
and a longer debate than necessary is designedly entered
into by Ambiorix, being surrounded by degrees, he is slain.
Then they, according to their custom, shout out " Victory," and
raise their war-cry, and, making an attack on our men, break
their ranks. There L. Cotta, while figting, is slain, together
with the greater part of the soldiers ; the rest betake themselves
to the camp, from which they had marched forth, and one of them,
L. Petrosidius, the standard bearer, when he was operpowered
by the great number of the enemy, threw the eagle within the
intrenchments and is himself slain while figting with the
greatest courage before the camp. They with difficulty sus-
tain the attack till night ; despairing of safety, they all to a
man destroy themselves in the night. A few escaping from

1 " Qui primum pilum duxerat." See the note, book ii., ch. xxv. ; or
book iii., ch. v.


the battle, made their way to Labienus at winter-quarters,
after wandering at random through the woods, and inform
him of these events.

CHAP. XXXVIII. Elated by this victory, Ambiowx marches
immediately with his cavalry to the Aduatuci, who bordered
on his kingdom ; he halts neither day nor night, and orders the
infantry to follow him closely. Having related the exploit
and roused the Aduatuci, the next day he arrived among the
Nervii, and entreats " that they should not throw away the op-
portunity of liberating themselves, forever and of punishing
the Romans for those wrongs which they had received from
them;" 1 [he tells them] "that two lieutenants have been slain,
and that a large portion of the army has perished ; that it was
not a matter of difficulty for the legion which was wintering
with Cicero to be cut off, when suddenly assaulted; he declares
himself ready to co-operate in that design. He easily gains
over the Nervii by this speech.

CHAP. XXXIX. Accordingly, messengers having been forth-
with dispatched to the Centrones, the Grudii, the Levaci, the
Pleumoxii, and the Geiduni, all of whom are under their gov-
ernment, they assemble as large bodies as they can, and rush
unexpectedly to the winter-quarters of Cicero, the report of the
death of Titurius not having as yet been conveyed to him.
That also occurred to him, which was the consequence of a
necessary work that some soldiers who had gone off into the
woods for the purpose of procuring timber and therewith con-
structing fortifications, were intercepted by the sudden arrival
of [the enemy's] horse. These having been entrapped, the
Eburones, the Nervii, and the Aduatici and all their allies and
dependants, begin to attack the legion : our men quickly run
together to arms and mount the rampart ; they sustained the
attack that day with great difficulty, since the enemy placed all
their hope in dispatch, and felt assured that, if they obtained
this victory, they would be conquerors forever.

CHAP. XL. Letters are immediately sent to Caesar by
Cicero, great rewards being offered [to the messengers] if they
carried them through. All these passes having been beset, those
Tfho were sent are intercepted. During the night as many as

1 See a statement of the calamity of the Nervii, made by themselves,
book ii. ch. xxviii. For a signal defeat of the Aduatuci, see ch, xxxiii.
of the same book.


120 towers are raised with incredible dispatch out of the timber
which they had collected for the purpose of fortification : the
things which seemed necessary to the work are completed.
The following day the enemy, having collected far greater
forces, attack the camp [and] fill up the ditch. Resistance is
made by our men in the same manner as the day before; this
same thing is done afterward during the remaining days. The
work is carried on incessantly in the night : l not even to the
sick, or wounded, is opportunity given for rest : whatever things
are required for resisting the assault of the next day are pro-
vided during the night : many stakes burned at the end, and a
large number of mural pikes are procured : towers are built up,
battlements and parapets are formed of interwoven hurdles.
Cicero himself, though he was in very weak health, did not
leave himself the night-time for repose, so that he was forced
to spare himself by the spontaneous movement and entreaties
of the soldiers.

CHAP. XLL Then these leaders and chiefs of the Nervii,
who had any intimacy and grounds of friendship with Cicero,
say they desire to confer with him. When permission was
granted, they recount the same things which Ambiorix had
related to Titurius, namely, " that all Gaul was in arms, that
the Germans had passed the Rhine, that the winter-quarters of
Caesar and of the others were attacked." They report in addi-
tion also, about the death of Sabinus. They point to Ambiorix
for the purpose of obtaining credence ; " they are mistaken,"
say they, " if they hoped for any relief from those who distrust
their own affairs ; that they bear such feelings toward Cicero
and the Roman people that they deny them nothing but winter-
quarters, and are unwilling that the practice* should become
constant ; that through their [the Nervii's] means it is possible
for them [the Romans] to depart from their winter-quarters
safely and to proceed without fear into whatever parts they
desire." To these Cicero made only one reply : " that it is not
the custom of the Roman people to accept any condition from
an armed enemy : if they are willing to lay down their arms,
they may employ him as their advocate and send embassadors
to Caesar: that he believed, from his [Caesar's] justice, they
would obtain the things which they might request."

1 Literally, "No portion of the night-time is intermitted to the work.

2 The practice of occupying winter-quarters in GauL


CHAP. XLII. Disappointed in this hope, the Nervii sur-
round the winter-quarters with a rampart eleven feet high, and
a ditch thirteen feet in depth. These military Avorks they had
learned from our men in the intercourse of former years, and,
having taken some of our army prisoners, were instructed by
them : but, as they had no supply of iron tools which are
requisite for this service, they were forced to cut the turf with
their swords, and to empty out the earth with their hands and
cloaks, from which circumstance, the vast number of the men
could be inferred ; for in less than three hours they completed a
fortification of ten miles in circumference ; and during 1 the rest
of the days they began to prepare and construct towers of the
height of the ramparts, and grappling irons, and mantelets,
which the same prisoners had taught them.

CHAP. XLIII. On the seventh day of the attack, a very
high wind having sprung up, they began to discharge by their
slings hot balls made of burned or hardened clay, and heated
javelins, upon the huts, which, after the Gallic custom, were
thatched with straw. These quickly took fire, and by the vio-
lence of the wind, scattered their flames in every part of the
camp. The energy following up their success with a very loud
shout, as if victory were already obtained and secured, began
to advance their towers and mantelets, and climb the rampart
with ladders. But so great was the courage of our soldiers,
and such their presence of mind, that though they were
scorched on all sides, and harassed by a vast number of wea-
pons, and were aware that their baggage and their possessions
were burning, not only did no one quit the rampart for the
purpose of withdrawing from the scene, but scarcely did any
one even then look behind ; and they all fought most vigor-
ously and most valiantly. This day was by far the most
calamitous to our men ; it had this result, however, that on that
day the largest number of the enemy Avas wounded and slain,
since they had crowded beneath the very rampart, and the
hindmost did not afford the foremost a retreat. The flame
having abated a little, and a tower having been brought up in
a particular place and touching the rampart, the centurions of
the third cohort retired from the place in which they were
standing, and drew off all their men : they began to call on the
enemy by gestures and by words, to enter if they wished ; but
none of them dared to advance. Then stones having been


cast from every quarter, the enemy were dislodged, and their
tower set on fire.

CHAP. XLIV. In that legion there were two very brave
men, centurions, -who were now approaching the first ranks, T.
Pulfio, 1 and L. Varenus. These used to have continual disputes
between them which of them should be preferred, and every
year used to contend for promotion with the utmost animosity.
When the fight was going on most vigorously before the forti-
fications, Pulfio, one of them, says, " Why do you hesitate, Vare-
nus ? or what [better] opportunity of signalizing your valor do
you seek ? This very day shall decide our disputes." When
he had uttered these words, he proceeds beyond the fortifica-
tions, and rushes on that part of the enemy which appeared the
thickest. Nor does Varenus remain within the rampart, but
respecting the high opinion of all, follows close after. Then,
when an inconsiderable space intervened, Pulfio throws his
javelin at the enemy, and pierces one of the multitude who was
running up, and while the latter was wounded and slain, the
enemy cover him with their shields, and all throw their weapons
at the other and afford him no opportunity of retreating. The
shield of Pulfio is pierced and a javelin is fastened in his
belt. This circumstance turns aside his scabbard and obstructs
his right hand when attempting to draw/ his sword : the
enemy crowd around him when [thus] embarrassed. His
rival runs up to him and succors him in this emergency.
Immediately the whole host turn from Pulfio to him,
supposing the other to be pierced through by the javelin.
Varenus rushes on briskly with his sword and carries on
the combat hand to hand, and having skin one man, for
a short time drove back the rest: while he urges on too
eagerly, slipping into a hollow, 2 he fell. To him, in his turn,
when surrounded, Pjdfio brings relief; and both having slain

1 The Delpbin annotator here remarks, that, from the circumstances
of this Pulfio's having been a strenuous partisan of Pompey, in the civil
war, either Caesar had not leisure to read over his Commentaries and blot

Online LibraryJulius CaesarCæsar's Commentaries on the Gallic and civil wars: → online text (page 13 of 59)