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

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Roman people and the characteristic valor of the Helvetii.
As to his having attacked one canton by surprise, [at a time]
when those who had crossed the river could not bring assist-
ance to their friends, that he ought not on that account to
ascribe very much to his own valor, or despise them ; that they
had so learned from their sires and ancestors, as to rely more
on valor than on artifice and stratagem. Wherefore let him not
bring it to pass 3 that the place, where they were standing,
should acquire a name, from the disaster of the Roman people
and the destruction of their army or transmit the remembrance
[of such an event to posterity]."

CHAP. XIV. To these words Caesar thus replied : that
"on that very account he felt less hesitation, because he kept
in remembrance those circumstances which the Helvetian
embassadors had mentioned, and that he felt the more in-
dignant at them, in proportion as they had happened unde-
servedly to the Roman people : for if they had been conscious
of having done any wrong, it would not have been difficult

1 Consul in B.C. 68, through Caesar's influence, who had been consul
in B.C. 59, and had married Piso's daughter Ccdpurnia.

2 Turning the Latin from the oratio obliqua to the oratio recta, it
would be : " sin bello persequi perseveras, reminiscitor .... pristinse
virtutis Helvetiorum," etc. ; and lower down ( 3 ) " ne committeret" would
be " ne commiseris." Vid. Wood's Translation of Madvig's Lat Gramm.
404, 5, p. 354.


to be on their guard, but for that very reason had they been
deceived, because neither were they aware that any offense had
been given by them, on account of which they should be afraid,
nor did they think that they ought to be afraid without
cause. But even if he were willing to forget their former
outrage, could he also lay aside 1 the remembrance of the late
wrongs, in that they had against his will attempted a route
through the Province by force, in that they had molested the
JEdui, the Ambarri, and the Allobroges 1 That as to their so
insolently boasting of their victory, and as to their being as-
tonished that they had so long committed their outrages with
impunity, [both these things] tended to the same point ^for
the immortal gods are wont to allow those persons whom they
wish to punish for their guilt sometimes a greater prosperity
and longer impunity, in order that they may suffer the more
severely from a reverse of circumstances. Although these things
are so, yet, if hostages were to be given him by them in order
that he may be assured they will do what they promise, and
provided they will give satisfaction to the ^Edui for the outrages
which they had committed against them and their allies, and
likewise to the Allobroges, he [Caesar] will make peace -with
them." Divico replied, that " the Helvetii had been so trained
by their ancestors, that they were accustomed, to receive, not to
give hostages ; of that fact the Roman people were witness."
Having given this reply, he withdrew.

CHAP. XV. On the following day they move their camp
from that place ; Caesar does the same, and sends forward all
his cavalry, to the number of four thousand (which he had
drawn together from all parts of the Province and from the
^Edui and their allies), to observe toward what parts the
enemy are directing their march. These, having too eagerly
pursued the enemy's rear, come to a battle with the cavalry of
the Helvetii in a disadvantageous place, and a few of our men
fall. The Helvetii, elated with this battle, because they had
with five hundred horse repulsed so large a body of horse,
began to face us more boldly, sometimes too from their rear to

1 Si veteria contumelise oblivisci vellet, num etiam recentium injuri-
arum memoriam deponere, posse, "without "se" would be in oratio recta,
" si . . . volo" " num .... possum ?" For a fuller explanation see
Madvig's Lat. Gramm. (Wood's Translation), 405, a, page 354.


provoke our men by an attack. Caesar [however] restrained
his men from battle, deeming it sufficient for the present to
prevent the enemy from rapine, forage, and depredation. They
marched for about fifteen days in such a manner that there was
not more than five or six miles between the enemy's rear and
our van.

CHAP. XVI. Meanwhile, Caesar kept daily importuning the
JEdui for the corn which they had promised in the name of
their state ; for, in consequence of the coldness (Gaul, being,
as before said, situated toward the north), not only was the
corn in the fields not ripe, but there was not in store a suffi-
ciently large quantity even of fodder : besides he was un-
able to use the corn which he had conveyed in ships up
the river Saone, because the Helvetii, from whom he was
unwilling to retire had diverted their march from the Saone.
The ^Edui kept deferring from day to day, and saying that it
was being " collected brought in on the road." When he
saw that he was put off too long, and that the day was
close at hand on which he ought to serve out the corn
to his soldiers ; having called together their chiefs, of whom
he had a great number in his camp, among them Divitiacus,
and Liscus who was invested with the chief magistracy (whom
the ^Edui style the Vergobretus, and who is elected annually,
and has power of life or death over his countrymen), he severely
reprimands them, because he is not assisted by them on so ur-
gent an occasion, when the enemy were so close at hand, and
when [corn] could neither be bought nor taken from the fields,
particularly as, in a great measure urged by their prayers, he
had undertaken the war ; much more bitterly, therefore, does
he complain of his being forsaken.

CHAP. XVIL Then at length Liscus, moved by Caesar's
speech, discloses what he had hitherto kept secret: that
"there are some whose influences with the people is very
great, who, though private men, have more power than the
magistrates themselves : that these by seditions and violent
language are deterring the populace from contributing the
corn which they ought to supply; [by telling them] that,
if they can not any longer retain the supremacy of Gaul,
it were better to submit to the government of Gauls
than of Romans, nor ought they to doubt that, if the
Romans should overpower the Helvetii, they would wrest their


freedom from the JEdui together with the remainder of Gaul.
By these very men, [said he], are our plans, and whatever is
done in the camp, disclosed to the enemy ; that they could
npt he restrained by him : nay more, he was well aware, that
though compelled by necessity, he had disclosed the matter to
Caesar, at how great a risk he had done it ; and for that reason,
he had been silent as long as he could."

CHAP. XVIH. Csesar perceived that, by this speech of
Liscus, DumnSrix, the brother of Divitiacus, was indicated ; but,
as he was unwilling that these matters should be discussed while
so many were present, he speedily dismisses the council, but de-
tains Liscus : he inquires from him when alone, about those
things which he had said in the meeting. He [Liscus] speaks
more unreservedly and boldly. He [Caesar] makes inquiries
on the same points privately of others, and discovers that it is
all true ; that " Dumnorix is the person, a man of the highest
daring, in great favor with the people on account of his
liberality, a man eager for a revolution : that for a great many
years he has been in the habit of contracting for the customs
and all the other taxes of the ^Edui at a small cost, because
when he bids, no one dares to bid against him. By these
means he has both increased his own private property, and
amassed great means for giving largesses ; that he maintains
constantly at his own expense and keeps about his own person
a great number of cavalry, and that not only at home, but even
among the neighboring states, he has great influence, and for
the sake of strengthening this influence has given his mother in
marriage among the Bituriges to a man the most noble and most
influential there ; that he has himself taken a wife from among
the Helvetii, and has given his sister by the mother's side and
his female relations in marriage into other states; that he
favors and wishes well to the Helvetii on account of this
connection ; and that he hates Caesar and the Romans, on his
own account, because by their arrival his power was weak-
ened, and his brother, Divitiacus, restored to his former
position of influence and dignity : that, if any thing should
happen to the Romans, he entertains the highest hope of
gaining the sovereignty by means of the Helvetii, but that
under the government of the Roman people he despairs not
only of royalty, but even of that influence which he already
has." Caesar discovered too, on inquiring into the unsuccessful


cavalry engagement which had taken place a few days before,
that the commencement of that flight had been made by
Dumnorix and his cavalry (for Dumnorix was in command
of the cavalry which the JEdui had sent for aid to Caesar) ;
that by their flight the rest of the cavalry were dismayed.

CHAP. XIX After learning these circumstances, since to
these suspicions the most unequivocal facts were added, viz.,
that he had led the Helvetii through the territories of the
Sequani ; that he had provided that hostages should be mutu-
ally given ; that he had done all these things, not only without
any orders of his [Caesar's] and of his own state's, but even
without their [the ^Edui] knowing any thing of it themselves ;
that he [Dumnorix] was reprimanded by the [chief] magistrate
of the ^Edui ; he [Caesar] considered that there was sufficient
reason, why he should either punish him himself, or order the
state to do so. One thing [however] stood in the way of all
this that he had learned by experience his brother Divitiacus's
very high regard for the Roman people, his great affection
toward him, his distinguished faithfulness, justice, and modera-
tion ; for he was afraid lest by the punishment of this man, he
should hurt the feelings of Divitiacus. Therefore, before he
attempted any thing, he orders Divitiacus to be summoned to
him, and, when the ordinary interpreters had been withdrawn,
converses with him through Caius Valerius Procillus, chief of
the province of Gaul, an intimate friend of his, in whom he
reposed the highest confidence in every thing ; at the same
time he reminds him of what was said about Dumnorix in
the council of the Gauls, when he himself was present, and
shows what each had said of him privately in his [Caesar's]
own presence ; he begs and exhorts him, that, without offense
to his feelings, he may either himself pass judgment on him
[Dumnorix] after trying the case, or else order the [^Eduan]
state to do so.

CHAP. XX. Divitiacus, embracing Caesar, begins to im-
plore him, with many tears, that " he would not pass any very
severe sentence upon his brother; saying, that he knows
that those charges are true, and that nobody suffered more
pain on that account than he himself did ; for when he
himself could effect a very great deal by his influence at home
and in the rest of Gaul, and he [Dumnorix] very little on
account of his youth, the latter had become powerful through


his means, which power and strength he used not only to
the lessening of his [Divitiacus] popularity, but almost to his
ruin ; that he, however, was influenced both by fraternal
affection and by public opinion. But if any thing very severe
from Caesar should befall him [Dumnorix], no one would
think that it had been done without his consent, since he
himself held such a place in Caesar's friendship : from which
circumstance it would arise, that the affections of the whole
of Gaul would be estranged from him." As he was with
tears begging these things of Caesar in many words, Caesar
takes his right hand, and, comforting him, begs him to make
an end of entreating, and assures him that his regard for
him is so great, that he forgives Both the injuries of the
republic and his private wrongs, at his desire and prayers.
He summons Dumnorix to him ; he brings in his brother ;
he points out what he censures in him ; he lays before him
what he of himself perceives, and what the state complains
of; he warns him for the future to avoid all grounds of
suspicion ; he says that he pardons the past, for the sake
of his brother, Divitiacus. He sets spies over Dumnorix
that he' may be able to know what he does, and with whom
he communicates.

CHAP. XXI. Being on the same day informed by his
scouts, that the enemy had encamped at the foot of a mount-
ain eight miles from his own camp ; he sent persons to
ascertain what the nature of the mountain was, and of what
kind the ascent on every side. Word was brought back,
that it was easy. During the third watch 1 he orders Titus
Labienus, his lieutenant with praetorian powers, 8 to ascend
to the highest ridge of the mountain with two legions, and
with those as guides who had examined the road ; he explains
what his plan is. He himself during the fourth watch, 1

1 For the vigilice, or watches of the night, vid. note on book i. chap. 12.

3d m ..

Romans .,, . ., %^ ~ A ,, connected with mili-

3A.M. tO 6A.M. tarynightH j uty .

2 Legatum pro prcetore." The legati accompanied the generals into the
field, or the proconsul [or praetor] to the provinces. They were nomi-
nated (legati) by the Consu, Praetor, or Dictator, under whom they serv-
ed, after such nomination had been sanctioned by a decree of senate


hastens to them by the same route by which the enemy had
gone, and sends on all the cavalry before him. Publius Consi-
dius, who was reputed to be very experienced in military
affairs, and had been in the army of Lucius Sulla, and after-
ward in that of Marcus Crassus, is sent forward with the

CHAP. XXII. At day-break, when the summit of the
mountain was in the possession of Titus Labienus, and he him-
self was not further off than a mile and half 1 from the enemy's
camp, nor, as he afterward ascertained from the captives, had
either his arrival or that of Labienus been discovered ; Consi-
dius, with his horse at full gallop, comes up to him says that
the mountain which he" [Caasar] wished should be seized by
Labienus, is in possession of the enemy ; that he has discovered
this by the Gallic arms and ensigns. Caesar leads off his
forces to the next hill : [and] draws them up in battle-order.
Labieuus, as he had been ordered by Caesar not to come
to an engagement unless [Caesar's] own forces were seen
near the enemy's camp, that the attack upon the enemy
might be made on every side at the same time, was, after
having taken possession of the mountain, waiting "for our
men, and refraining from battle. When, at length, the day
was far advanced, Caesar learned through spies, that the
mountain was in possession of his own men, and that the
Helvetii had moved their camp, and that Considius, struck
with fear, had reported to him, as seen, that which he had not
seen. On that day he follows the enemy at his usual 2 dis-
tance, and pitches his camp three miles from theirs.

CHAP. XXIII. The next day (as there remained in all
only two day's space [to the time] when he must serve out the
corn to his army, and as he was not more than eighteen
miles from Bibracte, 3 by far the largest and best-stored town

[senatus consultum.] If the consul was absent from the army, or a pro-
consul left his province, the legati, or one of them, held the absent
magistrate's power and insignia, in which case he was styled Legatus
pro PraBtore (or Vicegerent).

1 Bibracte, afterward Augusiodunam, (hence) the modern Autun (on
the river Aroux, in Burgundy).

2 Lit. "1500 paces." The passus (poce)=2 gradus=5 pedes=4 Eng-
lish feet, 10 '248 inches.

3 Literally, " At the interval at which he had 'been used" (to follow,


of the ^Edui), he thought that he ought to provide for a sup-
ply of corn ; and diverted his march from the Helvetii, and
advanced rapidly to Bibracte. This circumstance is reported to
the enemy by 'some deserters from Lucius ^Emilius, a captain, 1
of the Gallic horse. The Helvetii, either because they
thought that the Romans, struck with terror, were retreating
from them, the more so, as the day before, though they had
seized on the higher grounds, they had not joined battle;
or because they flattered themselves that they might be cut
off from the provisions, altering their plan and changing
their route, began to pursue, and to annoy our men in the

CHAP. XXIV. Caeear, when he observes this, draws off
his forces to the next hill, and sent the cavalry to sustain the
attack of the enemy. He himself, meanwhile, drew up on
the middle of the hill a triple line of his four veteran legions
in such a manner, that he placed above him on the very
summit the two legions, which he had lately levied in Hither
Gaul," and all the auxiliaries ; 3 and he ordered that the
whole mountain should be covered with men, and that mean-
while the baggage 4 should be brought together into one place,
and the position be protected by those who were posted in the
upper line. The Helvetii having followed with all their
wagons, collected their baggage into one place : they them-
selves, after having repulsed our cavalry and formed a phalanx,
advanced up to our front line in very close order.

CHAP. XXV. Caesar, having removed out of sight first his

1 The regular complement (Justus equitatus) of cavalry in a legion in
Caesar's time (the legion then was 5000 foot) was 300, i. e. 10 turms of
30 horseman each. [There were for each turm 3 decuriones, Ihdpxai.']
But in Caesar's time the decurio seems to have been captain of the whole
turm, according to Vegetius.

2 As is stated in chap. x. of this book.

3 All the foreign socii were obliged to send subsidies in troops when
Rome demanded them ; these did not, however, lik,e those of the socii
Italici, serve in the line, but were used as light-armed soldiers, and were
called " auxilia."

4 Sarcinse (lit. "packages") is used of each solder's own baggage,
which he carries for himself; but impedimenta is the army's baggage,
carried on wagons or beasts of burden. The Roman soldier carried a
vast load, 60 pounds weight, besides his armor, which last was con-
sidered part and parcel of the man himself. (Cic. Tusc. Qu. ii. 16.)


own horse, then those of all, that he might make the danger
of all equal, and do away with the hope of flight, after en-
couraging his men, joined battle. His soldiers hurling their
javelins from the higher ground, easily broke the enemy's
phalanx. That being dispersed, they made a charge on them
with drawn swords. It was a great hinderance to the Gauls in
fighting, that, when several of their bucklers 1 had been by one
stroke of the (Roman) javelins 2 pierced through and pinned
fast together, as the point of the iron had bent itself, they could
neither pluck it out, nor, with their left hand entangled, fight
with sufficient ease ; so that many, after having long tossed
their arm about, chose rather to cast away the buckler from
their hand, and to fight with their person unprotected. At
length, worn out with wounds, they began to give way, and,
as there was in the neighborhood a mountain about a
mile off, to betake themselves thither. When the mount-
ain had been gained, and our men were advancing up, the
Boii and Tulingi, who with about 15,000 men closed the
enemy's line of march and served as a guard to their rear,
having assailed our men on the exposed flank as they advanced
[prepared] to surround 3 them ; upon seeing which, the Hel-
vetii who had betaken themselves to the mountain, began
to press on again and renew the battle. The Romans having
faced about, advanced to the attack in two divisions ; 4 the
first and second line, to withstand those who had beon de-

1 Scutum, i9r>peof of Polybius, was the (oblong) wooden (or wicker-
work) buckler (strengthened with an iron rim and an iron boss) of the
Roman heavy-armed infantry. It covered the left shoulder, and was
4 ft. long by 2? broad. It was distinct from the (Greek) dypeus (shield),
which was round, and was by the Romans discontinued for the Sabine
scutum, about B.C. 400 (after the soldiers began to receive pay).

2 The pilum, or ponderous javelin, vaadf (of which the Roman soldier
carried two), to throw or to thrust with, was about 6 feet 9 inches in
length. The shaft was 4i feet, long ; and of the same length was the
barbed (three-square) iron head, which extended half-way down the
shaft. This thick javelin was peculiar to the Roman heavy-armed
soldier (with his long lance), as the gosum was to the Gauls

3 Circumvenire seems preferable to venere.

4 "Roman! conversa signa bipartite intulerunt," are the words
"Signa inferre," "to bear the standards on," means to attack; and
"signa convertere," " to turn the standards round," means to face about.
The Romans, having faced about, advanced to the attack" bipartite
" from two different quarters," or " in two divisions."


feated and driven off the field ; the "third to receive those who
were just arriving.

CHAP. XXVI. Thus, was the contest long and vigorously
carried on with doubtful success. 1 When they could no longer
withstand the attacks of our men, the one division, as they had
begun to do, betook themselves to the mountain ; the other
repaired to their baggage and wagons. For during the
whole of this battle, although the fight lasted from the seventh
hour [i. e. 12 (noon) 1 p. M.] to eventide, no one could see
an enemy with his back turned. The fight was carried on also
at the baggage till late in the night^ for they had set wagons in
the way as a rampart, and from the higher ground kept throw-
ing weapons upon our men, as they came on, and some from
between the wagons and the wheels kept darting their lances
and javelins from beneath, and wounding our men. After the
fight had lasted some time, our men gained possession of their
baggage and camp. There the daughter and one of the
sons of Orgetorix was taken. After the battle about 130,000
men [of the enemy] remained alive, who marched incessant-
ly during the whole of that night ; and after a march dis-
continued for no part of the night, arrived in the territories
of the Lingones on the fourth day, while our men, having
stopped for three days, both on account of the wounds of the
soldiers and the burial of the slain, had not been able to fol-
low them. Caesar sent letters and messengers to the Lingones
[with orders] that they should not assist them with corn
or with any thing else ; for that if they should assist them, he
would regard them in the same light as the Helvetii. After
the three days' interval he began to follow them himself with
all his forces.

CHAP. XXVII. The Helvetii, compelled by the want of
every thing, sent embassadors to him about a surrender.
When these had met him on the way and had thrown them-
selves at his feet, and speaking in suppliant tone had with
tears sued for peace, and [when] he had ordered them to await
his arrival, in the place, 2 where they then were, they obeyed

1 The sense of "ancipiti praelio," to which the best commentators incline.

2 Loco quo turn essent, " where they" (the whole body of the fugitive
Helvetii) "then were," essent, (according to the embassador's statements,
"wherever" on the faith of their statement "they were," though where
exactly Caesar knew not). This is the force of the subjunctive in the
"oratio obliqua."


his commands. When Caesar arrived at that place, he de-
manded hostages, their arms, and the slaves who had deserted
to them. While those things are being sought for and got
together, after a night's interval, about 6000 men of that can-
ton which is called the Verbigene, whether terrified by fear, lest,
after delivering up their arms, they should suffer punishment,
or else induced by the hope of safety, because they supposed
that, amid so vast a multitude of those who had surrendered
themselves, their flight might either be concealed or entirely
overlooked, having at night-fall departed out of the camp of
the Helvetii, hastened to the Rhine and the territories of the

CHAP. XXVIII. But when Caesar discovered this, he com-
manded those through whose territory they had gone, to seek

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