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

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sent forward his cavalry to harass their rear ; and gave the com-
mand of it to two of his lieutenants, Q. Pedius, and L. Aurun-
culeius Cotta. He ordered T. Labienus, another of his lieu-
tenants, to follow them closely with three legions. These,
attacking their rear, and pursuing them for many miles,-slew a
great number of them as they were fleeing; while those in
the rear with whom they had come up, halted, and bravely
sustained the attack of our soldiers ; the van, because they
appeared to be removed from danger, and were not restrained
hy any necessity or command, as soon as the noise was heard,
broke their ranks, and, to a man, rested their safety in flight.
Thus without any risk [to themselves] our men killed as great
a number of them as the length of the day allowed ; and at
sunset desisted from the pursuit, and betook themselves into
the camp, as they had been commanded.

CHAP. XII. On the day following, before the enemy
could recover from their terror and flight, Caesar led hisarmy
into the territories of the Suessiones, which are next to the
Eemi, and having accomplished a long march, hastens to
the town named Noviodunum. 1 Having attempted to take it
by storm on his march, because he heard that it was destitute
of [sufficient] defenders, he was not able to carry it by assault,
on account of the breadth of the ditch and the height of the
wall, though few were defending it. Therefore, having forti-
fied the camp, he began to bring up the vineae, and to provide
whatever things were necessary for the storm. In the mean
time the whole body of the Suessiones, after their flight,

1 There were three cities of this name in Gaul: 1. Noviodunum Sues-
sinum, called also simply Suessiones and Augusta, the modern Soissons,
which is meant here. 2. Noviodunum -<Eduoum or Nevirnum, a city of
the ^Edui on the Loire, the modem Nevers. 3. Noviodunum Biturigum,
the modern Neuvy or Neufry, about twenty miles west from Nevers.


came the next night into the town. The vineae having been
quickly brought up against the town, a mound thrown up,
and towers built, the Gauls, amazed by the greatness of the
works, such as they had neither seen nor heard of before, and
struck also by the dispatch of the Romans, send embassadors
to Caesar respecting a surrender, and succeed in consequence
of the Remi requesting that they [the Suessiones] might be

CHAP. Xin. Caesar, having received as hostages the first
men of the state, and even the two sons of king Galba
himself ; and ail the arms in the town having been delivered
up, admitted the Suessiones to a surrender, and led his army
against the Bellovaci. Who, when they had conveyed them-
selves and all their possessions into the town called Bratus-
pantium, 1 and Caesar with his army was about five miles distant
from that town, all the old men, going out of the town, began
to stretch out their hands to Caesar, and to intimate by their
voice that they would throw themselves on his protection and
power, nor would contend in arms against the Roman people-.
In like manner, when he had* come up to the town, and there
pitched his camp, the boys arid the women from the wall, with
outstretched hands, after their custom, begged peace from the

CHAP. XIV. For these Divitiacus pleads (for after the
departure of the Belgae, having dismissed the troops of the
,<Edui, he had returned to Caesar). "The Bellovaci had at
all times been in the alliance and friendship of the JEduan
state ; that they had revolted from the ^Edui and made
war upon the Roman people, being urged thereto by their
nobles, who said that the -<3dui, reduced to slavery by Caesar,
were suffering every indignity and insult. That they who
had been the leaders of that plot, because they perceived
how great a calamity they had brought upon the state, had
fled into Britain. That not only the Bellovaci, but also the
^Edui, entreated him to use his [accustomed] clemency and
lenity toward them [the Bellovaci]: which if he did, he
would increase the influence of the ^Edui among all the Belgae,
by whose succor and resources they had been accustomed to
support themselves whenever any wars occurred." a

1 This town is supposed to have stood between Caesaromagus, after-
ward Belvacus, Beauvais, and Samarobriva, Amiens.

4 For the grammatical construction of the original of this passage (" Qui


CHAP. XV. Caesar said that on account of his respect for
Divitiacus and the JEduans, he would receive them into his
protection, and would spare them ; but, because the state was
of great influence among the Belgse, and pre-eminent in the
number of its population, he demanded 600 hostages. When
these, were delivered, and all the arms in the town collected,
he went from that place into the territories of the Ambiani,
who, without delay, surrendered themselves and all thftir possess-
ions. Upon their territories bordered the Nervii, concerning
whose character and customs when Caesar inquired he received
the following information: That there was -no access for
merchants to them ; that they suffered no wine and other things
tending to luxury to be imported ; because they thought that by
their use the mind is enervated and the courage impaired :
that they were a savage people and of great bravery : that they
upbraided and condemned the rest of the Belga? who had sur-
rendered themselves to the Roman people and thrown aside
their national courage : that they openly declared they would
neither send embassadors, nor accept any condition of peace."

CHAP. XVI. After he had made three days' march through
their territories, he discovered from some prisoners, that the
river Sambre was not more than ten miles from his camp ; that
all the Nervii had stationed themselves on the other side of
that river, and together with the Atrebates and the Veromandui,
their neighbors, were there awaiting the arrival of the Romans ;
for they had persuaded both these nations to try the same
fortune of war [as themselves] : that the forces of the Adua-'
tuci were also expected by them, and were on their march ;
that they had put their women, and those who through age
appeared useless for war, in a place to which there was no
approach for an army, on account of the marshes.

CHAP. XVII. Having learned these things, he sends for-
ward scouts and centurions to choose a convenient place for
the camp. And as a great many of the surrounding Belgse
and other Gauls, following Caesar, marched with him ; some of
these, as was afterwards learned from the prisoners, having
accurately observed, during those days, the army's method
of marching, went by night to the Nervii, and informed
them that a great number of baggage-trains passed between

hujus," etc. "fuissent" " intulissent" "consuorint,") see tho notes on
the "oratio obliqua" and "oratio recta," book i., pp. 6, 10, 20.


the several logons, and that there would be no difficulty,
when the first logion had come into the camp, and the
other legions were at a great distance, to attack that
legion while under baggage, which being routed, and the
baggage-train seized, it would come to pass that the other
legions would not dare to stand their ground. It added
weight also to the advice of those who reported that circum-
stance, that the Nervii, from early times, because they were
weak in cavalry, (for not even at this time do they attend
to it, but accomplish by their infantry whatever they can,)
in order that they might the more easily obstruct the cavalry
of their neighbors if they came upon them for the purpose
of plundering, having cut young trees, and bent them, by
means of their numerous branches [extending] on to the sides,
and the quick-briars and thorns springing up between them, had
made these hedges present a fortification like a wall, through
which it was not only impossible to enter, but even to pene-
trate with the eye. 1 Since [therefore] the march of our army
would be obstructed by these things, the Nervii thought that
the advice ought not to be neglected by them.

CHAP XVIII. The nature of the ground which our men
had chosen for the camp was this : A hill, declining evenly
from the top, extending to the river Sambre, which we have men-
tioned above : from this river there arose a [second] hill of like
ascent, on the other side and opposite to the former, and
open for about 200 paces at the lower part ; but in the upper
part, woody, (so much so) that it was not easy to see through it
into the interior. Within these woods the enemy kept them-
selves in concealment ; a few troops of horse-soldiers appeared
on the open ground, along the river. The depth of the river
was about three feet.

CHAP. XIX. Caesar, having sent his cavalry on before,
followed close after them with all his forces ; but the plan and
order of the march was different from that which the Belgae
had reported to the Nervii. For as he was approaching the
enemy, Caesar, according to his custom, led on [as the van]

1 I have here adopted Anthon's reading and interpretation. Prende-
ville retains enatis in the text, punctuates differently, and translates as
follows: "Having half cut young trees and twisted their thick branches
in a lateral direction, and briars and thorns growing up and being dispers-
ed between them (the trees), caused that these hedges could form a
barrier like a wall."


six legions unencumbered .by baggage ; behind them he had
placed the baggage- trains of the \vliole army ; theu the two
legions which had been last raised closed the rear, and were a
guard for the baggage-train. Our horse, with the slingers and
archers, having passed the river, commenced action with the
cavalry of the enemy. While they from time to time betook
themselves into the woods to their companions, and again made
an assault out of the wood upon our men, who did not dare
to follow them in their retreat further than the limit to which
the plain and open parts extended, in the mean time the six
legions which had arrived first, having measured out the work,
began to fortify the camp. When the first part of the baggage
train of our army was seen by those who lay hid in the woods,
which had been agreed on among them as the time for com-
mencing action, as soon as they had arranged their line of
battle and formed their ranks within the woods, and had
encouraged one another, they rushed out suddenly with all their
forces and made an attack upon our horse. The latter being
easily routed and thrown into confusion, the Nervii ran down
to the river with such incredible speed that they seemed to
be in the woods, the river, and close upon us almost at
the same time. And with the same speed they hastened
up the hill to our camp, and to those who .were employed in the

CHAP. XX. Caesar had every thing to do at one time :'
the standard to be displayed, which was the sign when
it was necessary to run to arms ; the signal to be given by
the trumpet ; the soldiers to be called off from the works ;
those who had proceeded some distance for the purpose of
seeking materials for the rampart, to be summoned ; the
order of battle to be formed ; the soldiers to be encouraged ; a

1 Literally, " all things were to be done by Cassar at one time."

2 " When a general, after having consulted the auspices, had determined
to lead forth his troops against the enemy, a red flag was displayed (vexillum
vel signum pugrue proponebatur), on a Bpear from the top of the Prajtorium,
Caes. de Bell. Gall. ii. 20. Liv. xxii. 45, which was the signal to prepare
for battle. Then having called an assembly by the sound of a trumpet
(dassico, i. e. tuba, condone advocatd, Liv. iii. 62), he harangued the sol-
diers, who usually showed their approbation by shouts, by raising their right
hands (Lucaa i. 386), or by beating on their shields with their spears.
This address was sometimes made in the open field from a tribunal raised
of turf (e triluncdi cespititio, aut viride cespite exslructo). Tacit. Ann. i. 18.
Plin. Paneg. 50. Stat. Silv. v. 2 144." Adam's Rom. Antiquities.


the watchword to be given. A great part of these arrange-
ments was prevented by the shortness of time and the sudden
approach and charge of the enemy. Under these difficulties
two things proved of advantage ; [first] the skill and expe-
rience of the soldiers, because, having been trained by former
engagements, they could suggest to themselves what ought to
be done, as conveniently as receive information from others ;
and [secondly] that Caesar had forbidden his several lieutenants
to depart from the works and their respective legions, before
the camp was fortified. These, on account of the near approach
and the speed of the enemy, did not then wait for any command
from Caesar, but of themselves executed whatever appeared

CHAP. XXI. Caesar, having given the necessary orders,
hastened to and fro into whatever quarter fortune carried
him, to animate the troops, and came to the tenth legion.
Having encouraged the soldiers with no further speech than
that " they should keep up the remembrance of their wonted
valor, and not be confused in mind, but valiantly sustain
the assault of the enemy ;" as the latter were not further from
them than the distance to which a dart could be cast, he gave
the signal for commencing battle. And having gone to another
quarter for the purpose of encouraging [the soldiers], he finds
them fighting. Such was the shortness of the time, and so de-
termined was the mind of the enemy on fighting, that time was
wanting not only for affixing the military insignia, 1 but even,
for putting on the helmets 2 and drawing off the covers from
the shields.* To whatever part any one by chance came from
the works (in which he had been employed), and whatever
standards he saw first, at these he stood, lest in seeking his
own company he should lose the time for fighting.

1 " Insignia" here means those ornaments and badges of distinction
worn by the Roman soldiers : probably it here refers especially to the
devices upon the helmets. " The fictitious employment" of insignia "to
deceive and mislead an enemy was among the stratagems of war. (Paus.
iv. 28 ; Virg. JEn. ii. 389-392)." Smith's Diction, of Greek and Roman

2 It was the practice of the Roman soldiers when on the march, not to
wear their helmets, but to carry them slung over their backs, or chests.

3 As the shields of the soldiers, even at that period, were embellished
with curious and expensive ornaments, they kept them, when either in camp
or on the march, covered with leather, as a defense against the dust or rain.


CHAP. XXII. The army having been marshaled, rather as
the nature of the ground and the declivity of the hill and the
exigency of the time, than as the method and order of military
matters required; while the legions in the different places
were withstanding the enemy, some in one quarter, some in
another, and the view was obstructed by the very thick hedges
intervening, as we have before remarked, neither could proper
reserves be posted, nor could the necessary measures be taken
in each part, nor could all the commands be issued by one
person. Therefore, in such an unfavorable state of affairs,
various events of fortune followed.

CHAP. XXIII. The soldiers of the ninth and tenth legions,
as they had been stationed on the left part of the army, casting
their weapons, speedily drove the Atrebates (for that division
had been opposed, to them,) who were breathless with running
and fatigue, and worn out with wounds, from the higher ground
into the river ; and following them as they were endeavoring to
pass it, slew with their swords a great part of them while im-
peded (therein). They themselves did not hesitate to pass the
river ; and having advanced to a disadvantageous place, when
the battle was renewed, they [nevertheless] again put to flight
the enemy, who had returned and were opposing them. In
like manner, in another quarter two different legions, the
eleventh and the eighth, having routed the Veromandui, with
whom they had engaged, were fighting from the higher ground
upon the very banks of the river. But, almost the whole camp
on the front and on the left side being then exposed, since the
twelfth legion was posted in the right Aving, and the seventh
at no great distance from it, all the Nervii, in a very close
body, with Boduognatus, who held the chief command, as their
leader, hastened toward that place ; and part of them began to
surround the legions on their unprotected flank, part to make
for the highest point of the encampment. 1

CHAP. XXIV. At the same time our horsemen, and light-
armed infantry, who had been with those, who, as I have re-
lated, were routed by the first assault of the enemy, as they
were betaking themselves into the camp, met the enemy face
to face, and again sought flight into another quarter ; and

1 The highest point, perhaps, of the hill on which the camp was. The
Greek paraphrast has nopf rd uupa reivovai.


the camp-followers 1 who from the Decuman Gate,* and from
the highest ridge of the hill had seen our men pass the river
as victors, when, after going out for the purposes of plunder-
ing, they looked back and saw the enemy parading in our
camp, committed themselves precipitately to flight; at the
same time there arose the cry and shout of those who came
with the baggage-train : and they (affrighted), were carried
some one way, some another. By all these circumstances
the cavalry of the Treviri were much alarmed, (whose reputa-
tion for courage is extraordinary among the Gauls, and who
had come to Caesar, being sent by their state as auxiliaries),
and, when they saw our camp filled with a large number of
the enemy, the legions hard pressed and almost held sur-
rounded, the camp-retainers, horsemen, slingers, and Numi-
dians fleeing on all sides divided and scattered, they,
despairing of our affairs, hastened home, and related to their
state that the Romans were routed and conquered, [and] that
the enemy were in possession of their camp and baggage-train.
CHAP. XXV. Csar proceeded, after encouraging the tenth
'legion, to the right wing ; where he perceived that his men were
hard pressed, and that in consequence of the standards of the
twelfth legion being collected together in one place, the crowded
soldiers were a hinderance to themselves in the fight ; that all
the centurions of the fourth cohort were slain, and the standard-
bearer killed, the standard 3 itself lost, almost all the centurions
of the other cohorts either wounded or slain, and among them
the chief centurion of the legion* P. Sextius Baculus, a very
valiant man, who was so exhausted by many and severe wounds,

1 These calones, it is generally supposed, were slaves. From continual
attendance upon the army they arrived at a considerable degree of skill
in military mattera Caesar, for the most part, uses the word catenas by
itself; whereas Tacitus uses it in conjunction with lixce, as if the two
words implied the same class of persons. The UXOR. however, were quite
distinct from the calones. They were freemen, and followed the army
for the purpose of trade ; " lixae, qui exercitum sequebantur, quaestus
causa." Festus. Thus Hirtius, de Bello Afric. 75, classes them with
" mercatores :" " lixarum mercatorumque qui plaustris merces portabant."

2 The Roman camp had four gates: "porte prcetoria," nearest to the
enemy ; "porta Decumana" opposite to that, and thus furthest from them ;
" porta principalis dectra," and "porta principalis sinistra."

3 Besides the aquila or standard of the legion, there were the subordi-
nate standards of the cohorts and the manipuli.

4 The primopilus was the first centurion of the first maniple of the



that he was already unable to support himself ; he likewise per-
ceived that the rest were slackening their efforts, and that
some, deserted by those in the rear, were retiring from the
battle and avoiding the weapons ; that the enemy [on the other
hand] though advancing from the lower ground, were not re-
laxing 5u front, and were [at the same time] pressing hard on
both flanks ; he also perceived that the affair was at a crisis,
and that there was not any reserve which could be brought up ;
having therefore snatched a shield from one of the soldiers in
the rear (for he himself had come without a shield), he
advanced to the front of the line, and addressing the centurioKS
by name, and encouraging the rest of the soldiers, he ordered
them to carry forward the standards, and extend the companies,
that they might the more easily use their swords. On his
arrival, as hope was brought to the soldiers and their courage
restored, while every one for his own part, in the sight of
his general, desired to exert his utmost energy, the impetuosity
of the enemy was a little checked.

CHAP. XXVI. Caesar, when he perceived that the seventh
legion, which stood close by him, was also hard pressed by
the enemy, directed the tribunes of the soldiers 1 to effect

Triarii (centurio primi pili), also called primus centurio, a person of great
distinction in a legion. He had authority over the other centurions ;
ranked next to the tribuni militum, and had a place in the council of war.
To him was committed the charge of the principal standard of the legion,
whence he is, among other instances, referred to by Tacitus, Ann. L 39,
Hist. i. 56, by the title of aquilifer. To the lucrative nature of his office,
at least under the empire, Juvenal alludes, when, Sat. xvi. 197, he says,
"locupletem aquilam."

1 The tribunes of the soldiers. In each legion there were in the time
of Polybius, six tribuni militum, who commanded under the consul, usu-
ally in turns of a month each. During that period the tribune's authority
extended over the whole legion. Up to the year B. c. 361, these officers
were chosen, during the monarchy, by the kings ; upon the institution
of the consulate, by the consuls ; and under the dictatorship, by the dic-
tator. That year the people claimed the right of electing either the whole,
or the greater part of them. From that period down to B. c. 207, they
continued to elect them in this manner. Subsequently, several changes
took place in the appointment of these officers. In battle, a military tri-
bune had command of 1,000 men; whence their name in Greek is
X&iapxS or X&iopXnC' The office was for many years the reward of
merit and long service. This rule was afterward fatally violated. The
late emperors, in order to oblige as many of their friends as possible, fre-
quently conferred the office for the period of six months only. Hence,
Pliny, Epist. iv. 4, has "semestri tribunatu;" and Juvenal, Sat. vii. 8,


a junction of the legions gradually, and make their charge
upon the enemy with a double front ; which having been
done, since they brought assistance the one to the other, nor
feared lest their rear should be surrounded by the enemy,
they began to stand their ground more boldly, and to fight
more courageously. In the mean time, the soldiers of the two
legions which had been in the rear of the army, as a guard for
the baggage-train, upon the battle being reported to them,
quickened their pace, and were seen by the enemy on the top of
the hill ; and Titus Labienus, having gained possession of the
camp of the enemy, and observed from the higher ground what
was going on in our camp, sent the tenth legion as a relief to
our men, who, when they had learned from the flight of the
horse and the sutlers in what position the affair was, and
in how great danger the camp and the legion and the com-
mander were involved, left undone nothing [which tended] to

CHAP. XXVII. By their arrival, so great a change of
matters was made, that our men, even those who had fallen
down exhausted with wounds, leaned on their shields, and renewed
the fight : then the camp-retainers, though unarmed, seeing
the enemy completely dismayed, attacked [them though]
armed; the horsemen too, that they might by their valor
blot the disgrace of their flight, thrust themselves before
the legionary soldiers in all parts of the battle. But the
enemy, even in the last hope of safety, displayed such great
courage, that when the foremost of them had fallen, the next
stood upon them prostrate, and fought from their bodies;

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