Julius Caesar.

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

. (page 7 of 59)
Online LibraryJulius CaesarCæsar's Commentaries on the Gallic and civil wars: → online text (page 7 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

when these were overthrown, and their corpses heaped up
together, those who survived cast their weapons against
our men [thence], as from a mound, and returned our darts
which had fallen short between [the armies] ; so that it ought
not to be concluded, that men of such great courage had
injudiciously dared to pass a very broad river, ascend very
high banks, and come up to a very disadvantageous place ;
since their greatness of spirit had rendered these actions
easy, although in themselves very difficult.

CHAP. XXVm. This battle being ended, and the. na-

alluding at once to that practice and the gold ring which was one of the
insignia of the tribune, has " semestri auro." The sixth book of Polybiua
may be here consulted.


tion and name of the Nervii being almost reduced to an-
nihilation, their old men, whom together with the boys and
women we have stated to have been collected together in the
fenny places and marshes, on this battle having been reported
to them, since they were convinced that nothing was an
obstacle to the conquerors, and nothing safe to the conquered,
sent embassadors to Caesar by the consent of all who remained,
and surrendered themselves to him ; and in recounting the
calamity of their state, said that their senators were reduced
from 600 to three ; that from 60,000 men they [were reduced]
to scarcely 500 who could bear arms ; whom Caesar, that he
might appear to use compassion toward the wretched and the
suppliant, most carefully spared ; and ordered them to enjoy
their own territories and towns, and commanded their neigh-
bors that they should restrain themselves and their depend-
ents from offering injury or outrage [to them].
CHAP. XXIX. When the Aduatuci, of whom we have
written above, were coming up with all their forces to the as-
sistance of the Nervii, upon this battle being reported to them,
they returned home after they were on the march ; deserting
all their towns and forts, they conveyed together all their pos-
sessions into one town, eminently fortified by nature. While
this town had on all sides around it very high rocks and
precipices, there was left on one side a gently ascending
approach, of not more than 200 feet in width ; which place
they had fortified with a very lofty double wall : besides, they
had placed stones of great weight and sharpened stakes upon
the walls. They were descended from the Cimbri and Teu-
tones, who, when they were marching into our province and
Italy, having deposited on this side the river Rhine such of
their baggage-trains as they could not drive or convey with
them, left 6,000 of their men as a guard and defense for them.
These having, after the destruction of their countrymen, been
harassed for many years by their neighbors, while one time
they waged war offensively, and at another resisted it when
waged against them, concluded a peace with the consent of all,
and chose this place as their settlement.

CHAP. XXX. And on the first arrival of our army they
made frequent sallies from the town, and contended with our
men in trifling skirmishes ; afterward, when hemmed in by a
rampart of twelve feet [in height], and fifteen miles in circuit,


they kept themselves within the town. When, vineae' having
been brought up and a mound raised, they observed that a
tower also was being built at a distance, they at first began to
mock the Romans from their wall, and to taunt them with
the following speeches. "For what purpose was so vast a
machine constructed at so great a distance ? With what
hands," or " with what strength did they, especially [as they
were] men of such very small stature" (for our shortness of
stature, in comparison to the great size of their bodies, is
generally a subject of much contempt to the men of Gaul)
"trust to place against their walls a tower of such great

CHAP. XXXI. But when they saw that it was being moved,
and was approaching their walls, startled by the new and un-
accustomed sight, they sent embassadors to Caesar [to treat]
about peace ; who spoke in the following manner : "That they
did not believe the Romans waged war without divine aid,
since they were able to move forward machines of such a height
with so great speed, and thus fight from close quarters ; that they
resigned themselves and all their possessions to [Caesar's] dis-
posal : that they begged and earnestly entreated one thing, viz.,
that if perchance, agreeable to his clemency and humanity, which
they had heard of from others, he should resolve that the Adu-
atuci were to be spared, he would not deprive them of their arms;
that all their neighbors were enemies to them and envied their
courage, from whom they could not defend themselves if their
arms were delivered up : that it was better for them, if they
should be reduced to that state, to suffer any fate from the Ro-
man people, than to be tortured to death by those among whom
they had been accustomed to rule."

CHAP. XXXII. To these things Caesar replied, " That he,

1 The vinece was a machine under the protection of which the besieging
soldiery advanced to the walls of a town. It consisted of a roof, (formed
of planks and wickerwork, covered over with raw hides or wet cloth),about
sixteen feet long and seven broad, and resting upon posts eight feet in
height. The sides of this were guarded also by a wickerwork. Though
usually so light that the men might carry it, the vinece was, in extraordinary
cases, made so strong as to be too heavy for that mode of advancing it,and
was then moved by wheels attached to the posts. Frequently, as perhaps
in the above case,several of these were joined together ; the besiegers being
defended against the darts, stones, and fire of the town by the vinece, con-
ducted their operations of undermining or of attack by the battering-ram.


in accordance with, his custom, rather than owing to their desert,
should spare the state, if they should surrender themselves
before the battering-ram 1 should touch the wall ; but that there
was no condition of surrender, except upon their arms being
delivered up ; that he should do to them that which he had
done in the case of the Nervii, and would command their
neighbors not to offer any injury to those who had surren-
dered to the Roman people." The matter being reported to
their countrymen, they said that they would execute his
commands. Having cast a very large quantity of their arms
from the wall into the trench that was before the town,
so that the heaps of arms almost equalled the top of the
wall and the rampart, and nevertheless having retained and
concealed, as we afterward discovered, about a third part
in the town, the gates were opened, and they enjoyed peace for
that day.

CHAP. XXXIII. Toward evening Caesar ordered the gates
to be shut, and the soldiers to go out of the town, lest
the towns-people should receive any injury from them by
night. They [the Aduatuci], by a design before entered into,
as we afterwards understood, because they believed that, as a
surrender had been made, our men would dismiss their guards,
or at least would keep watch less carefully, partly with those
arms which they had retained and concealed, partly with shields
made of bark or interwoven wickers, which they had hastily
covered over with skins, (as the shortness of time required) in
the third watch, suddenly made a sally from the town with all
their forces [in that direction] in which the ascent to our fortifi-

1 Tho battering-ram (aries) was, perhaps, the most effective instrument
of ancient warfare. It may be called the artillery of olden times. The
bas-reheCs on the column of Trajan at Rome present a portraiture of this
war engine in its simple form ; borne and impelled that is, by human
force alone. In its more efficient form, iron rings were placed around the
beam of the ram, by which it was suspended by means of ropes, or chains,
to another beam fitted transversely over it. Velocity, and consequently
power, were thus greatly increased. The head was made of iron or some
hard metal, and formed to represent the head of a goat. Hence, as well
as from its application, it was called by the Romans aries. The Romans
borrowed it from the Greeks. They do not, however, appear to have
made very much use of it before the siege of Syracuse, in the second
Punic war. The beam to which the head was attached varied from eighty
to a hundred and twenty feet in length, and the united strength of more
than a hundred men was sometimes engaged in its operation.


cations seemed the least difficult. The signal having been
immediately given by fires, as Caesar had previously com-
manded, a rush was made thither [i. e. by the Roman soldiers]
from the nearest fort ; and the battle was fought by the enemy
as vigorously as it ought to be fought by brave men, in the last
hope of safety, in a disadvantageous place, and against those
who were throwing their weapons from a rampart and from
towers ; since all hope of safety depended on their courage
alone. About 4,000 of the men having been slain, the rest.
were forced back into the town. The day after, Caesar, after
breaking open the gates, which there was no one then to defend,
and sending in our soldiers, sold the whole spoil of that town.
The number of 53,000 persons was reported to him by those
who had bought them.

CHAP. XXXIV. At the same time he was informed by P.
Crassus, whom he had sent with one legion against the Vengti, 1
the Unelli, the Osismii, the Curiosolitae, the Sesuvii, the Aulerci,
and the Rhedones, which are maritime states, and touch upon
the [Atlantic] ocean, that all these nations were brought under
the dominion and power of the Roman people.

CHAP. XXXV. These things being achieved, [and] all
Gaul being subdued, so high an opinion of this war was
spread among the barbarians, that embassadors were sent to
Caesar by those nations who dwelt beyond the Rhine, to
promise that they would give hostages and execute his com-
mands. Which embassies Caesar, because he was hastening
into Italy and Ulyricum, ordered to return to him at the
beginning of the following summer. He himself, having fed
his legions into winter quarters among the Carnutes, the
Andes, and the Turones, which states were close to those
regions in which he had waged war, set out for Italy ; and a
thanksgiving 2 of fifteen days was decreed for those achieve-

1 Veneti, etc. These were nations of Gallia Celtica. The Veneti were
situated in the west. The Unelli possessed a territory lying on the north-
west of what is now called Normandy. Off their coast lay the islands
Csesarea, Jersey ; Sarnia, Guernsey ; and Reduna, Alderney. The Osismii
occupied a territory afterward forming a part of the province of Bretagne,
and now called Finisterre. The Curiosolitse also occupied a part of the
same province. The Sesuvii are supposed to have been situated on the
coast near the Bay of Biscay.

2 This (supplicatio or supplicium) was a great religious solemnity de-
creed by the senate, upon an extraordinary victory. It was designed as


ments, upon receiving Caesar's letter ; [an honor] which before
that time 1 had been conferred on none.

an act of thanksgiving to the gods. The temples were then thrown open
and the statues of the deities placed in public upon couches. Before
these the people gave expression to their thankfulness. This part of tho
solemnity was called lectisternium. The value of the victory was sup-
posed to determine the period of the duration of this sacred festival.
Though sometimes decreed for one day, its usual period was three or five
days. Pompey had a supplicatio of ten days decreed upon the conclu-
sion of the war with Mithridates. Caesar, as we read in the text, obtain-
ed one of fifteen days. This, he tells us, was the first occasion on which
a Roman general had enjoyed that honor. Upon his victory over "Ver-
cingetorix, that illustrious enemy of the Roman power in Gaul, a suppli-
catio of twenty days was decreed him, as we read, De Bell. Gall. vii. 90.
Dion Cassius mentions instances in which a forty, fifty, and even sixty
days' supplicatio was decreed. Cicero obtained a supplicatio upon the
suppression of the Catiline conspiracy an honor which he took frequent
opportunity of observing had never before been granted to manful

There was another solemnity bearing this name. The occasion of it,
however, was very different from that already spoken of. In times of
public distress or danger, and at the appearance of uncommon prodigies;
the senate decreed a supplicatio to appease the deities and remove tho
present, or avert the anticipated evil

1 laterally, "happened to none."




I. Caesar, at the close of the late campaign, sent Servins Qalha into the
territories of the Nautuates, Veragri, and Seduni, with permission to
winter there, if expedient ; his reason for this. Galba resolved to win-
ter at Octodums. II. The Seduni and Veragri combine against him.
III. And attack his camp. IV.-VI. A fierce battle ensues ; in which,
as well as in several other engagements, Galba is successful. VII., VIII.
An unexpected war in Gaul ; the occasion of it. Veneti are the princi-
pal instigators. IX. Caesar gives orders for the equipment of a fleet.
The Veneti and other states augment their navy, and extend their al-
liances. X.-XII. Caesar's difficulties ; arising chiefly from the position
of the Venetio towns. XIII. The structure of the Venetio ships ac-
commodated to that position. XIV., XV. Caesar surmounts these dis-
advantages ; and in a naval engagement obtains a victory. XVI. Which
terminated the war with the V eneti. XVII.-XIX. Titurius Sabinus is
sent into the territories of the Unelli. Conduct of their king, Viridorix.
Sabinus is compelled to resort to stratagems ; he defeats the Unelli.
XX., XXI. P. Crassus enters Aquitania, and is attacked by the Sotiates,
who are signally worsted. XXII. The " Soldurii." XXIII. Crassus
proceeds into the territories of the Vocates and Tarusates ; who engage
in measures of opposition. XXIV. He draws up his forces for a battle ;
which the enemy decline. XXV.. XXVI. He then attacks their en-
campment, and is victorious. XXVIII. Caesar advances against the
Monni and Menapii ; his motives for this : the enemy make a sudden
assault on the Roman forces, and are repelled with great loss. XXIX.
Caesar's provision against such attacks : his operations interrupted by
the inclemency of the season : the army is led into winter quarters.

CHAP. I. When Caesar was setting out for Italy, lie sent
Servius Galba with the twelfth legion and part of the cavalry,
against the Nantuates, 1 the Veragri, and Seduni, who ex-

1 The Nantuates were an Alpine race, on the south of the Lake of
Geneva ; the Veragri, a tribe of the Roman province, also south of that
lake, whose chief town, Octodums, is the modern Martigni, and the Se-
duni, a people lying between the east coast of it and the Rhone, whose
capital, Seduni, ia the modern Sion.


tend from the territories of the Allobroges, and the lake of
Geneva, and the River Rhone to the top of the Alps. The
reason for sending him was, that he desired that the pass along
the Alps, through which [the Roman] merchants had been
accustomed to travel with great danger, and under great im-
posts, should be opened. He permitted him, if he thought
it necessary, to station the legion in these places, for the
purpose of wintering. Galba having fought some success-
ful battless and stormed several of their forts; upon embas-
sadors being sent to him from all parts and hostages given
and a peace concluded, determined to station two cohorts
among the Nantuatcs, and to winter in person with the other
cohorts of that legion in a village of the Veragri, which is
called Octodurus ; and this village being situated in a valley,
with a small plain annexed to it, is bounded on all sides by
very high mountains. As this village was divided into two
parts by a river, he granted one part of it to the Gauls, and
assigned the other, which had been left by them unoccupied, to
the cohorts to winter in. He fortified this [latter] part with a
rampart and a ditch.

CHAP. II. When several days had elapsed in winter
quarters, and he had ordered corn to be brought in he was
suddenly informed by his scouts that all the people had gone
off in the night from that part of the town which he had given
up to the Gauls, and that the mountains which hung over it
were occupied by a very large force of the Secluni and Veragri.
It had happened for several reasons that the Gauls suddenly
formed the design of renewing the war and cutting off that
legion. First, because they despised a single legion, on account
of its small number, and that hot quite full (two cohorts
having been detached, and several individuals 'being absent,
who had been dispatched for the purpose of seeking provision) ;
then, likewise, because they thought that on account of the
disadvantageous character of the situation, even their first
attack could not be sustained [by us] when they would rush
from the mountains into the valley, and discharge their wea-
pons upon us. To this was added, that they were indignant
thai their children were torn from them under the title of
hostages, and they were persuaded that the Romans designed
to seize upon the summits of the Alps, and unite those parts to


the neighboring province [of Gaul], not only to secure the
passes, 1 but also a constant possession.

CHAP. III. Having received these tidings, Galba, since
the works of the winter-quarters and the fortifications were not
fully completed, nor was sufficient preparation made with regard
to corn and other provisions (since, as a surrender had been made,
and hostages received, he had thought he need entertain no
apprehension of war), speedily summoning a council, began to
anxiously inquire their opinions. In which council, since so
much sudden danger had happened contrary to the general
expectation, and almost all the higher places were seen already
covered with a multitude of armed men, nor could [either] troops
come to their relief, or provisions be brought in, as the passes
were blocked up [by the enemy] ; safety being now nearly
despaired of, some opinions of this sort were delivered : that,
" leaving their baggage, and making a sally, they should hasten
away for safety by the same routes by which they had come
thither." To the greater part, however, it seemed best, reserving
that measure to the last, to await the issue of the matter, and
to defend the camp.

CHAP. IV. A short time only having elapsed, so that time
was scarcely given for arranging and executing those things
which they had determined on, the enemy, upon the signal
being given, rushed down [upon our men] from all parts, and
discharged stones and darts* upon our rampart. Our men at
first, while their strength was fresh, resisted bravely, nor did
they cast any weapon ineffectually from their higher station.
As soon as any part of the camp, being destitute of defenders,
seemed to be hard pressed, thither they ran, and brought
assistance. But they were over-matched in this, that the
enemy when wearied by the long continuance of the battle,
went out of the action, and others with fresh strength came in
their place ; none of which things could be done by our men,
owing to the smallness of their number ; and not only was per-
mission not given to the wearied [Roman] to retire from, the
fight, but not even to the wounded [was liberty granted] to quit
the pofet where he had been stationed, and recover.

CHAP. V. When they had now been fighting for more than
six hours, without cessation, and not only strength, but even

1 Literally, "for the possession of the passes."

2 The gcesum, a Celtic weapon, was adopted by the Romans.


weapons were failing our men, and the enemy were pressing on
more rigorously, and had begun to demolish the rampart and
to fill up the trench, while our men were becoming exhausted,
and the matter was now brought to the last extremity, P. Sex-
tius Baculus, a centurion of the first rank, whom we have
related to have been disabled by severe wounds in the engage-
ment with the Nervii, and also C. Volusenus, a tribune of the
soldiers, a man of great skill and valor, hasten to Galba, and
assure him that the only hope of safety 1 lay in making a sally,
and trying the last resource. Whereupon assembling the cen-
turions, he quickly gives orders to the soldiers to discontinue
the fight a short time, and only collect the weapons flung [at
them], and recruit themselves after their fatigue, and afterward,
upon the signal being given, sally forth from the camp, and
place in their valor all their hope of safety.

CHAP. VI. They do what they were ordered ; and, making
a sudden sally from all the gates [of the camp], leave the enemy
the means neither of knowing what was taking place, nor of
collecting themselves. Fortune thus taking a turn, [our men]
surround on every side, and slay those who had entertained the
hope of gaining the camp and having killed more than the
third part of an army of more than 30,000 men (which num-
ber of the barbarians it appeared certain had come up to our
camp], put to flight the rest when panic-stricken, and do not
suffer them to halt even upon the higher grounds. All the
forces of the enemy being thus routed, and stripped of
their arms, [our men] betake themselves to their camp
and fortifications. Which battle being finished, inasmuch
as Galba was unwilling to tempt fortune again, and remem-
bered that he had come into winter quarters with one design,
and saw that he had met with a different state of affairs ;
chiefly however urged by the want of corn and provision,
having the next day burned all the buildings of that village, he
hastens to return into the province ; and as no enemy opposed
or hindered his march, he brought the legion safe into the
[country of the] Nantuates, thence into [that of] the Allo-
broges, and there wintered.

CHAP. VII. These things being achieved, while Caesar had
every reason to suppose that Gaul was reduced to a state of tran-

1 Literally, " the only hope of safety was, if a sally being made, they
tried the last resource."


quillity, the Belgae being overcome, the Germans expelled, the
Seduni among the Alps defeated, and when he had, therefore,
in the beginning of winter, set out for Illyricum, as he wished to
visit those nations, and acquire a knowledge of their countries,
a sudden war sprang up in Gaul. The occasion of that war was
this : P. Crassus, a young man, had taken up his winter quarters
with the seventh legion among the Andes, who border upon
the [Atlantic] ocean. He, as there was a scarcity of corn in
those parts, sent out some officers of cavalry, and several mili-
tary tribunes among the neighbouring states, for the purpose
of procuring corn and provision ; in which number T. Terrasi-
dius was sent among the Esubii ; M. Trebius Gallus among
the Curiosolltae ; Q. Velanius, T. Silius, amongst the Vengti.

CHAP. VIII. The influence of this state is by far the most
considerable of any- of the countries on the whole sea coast,
because the Ven6ti both have a very great number of ships,
'with which they have been accustomed to sail to Britain, and
[thus] excel the rest in their knowledge and experience of
nautical affairs ; and as only a few ports lie scattered along
that stormy and open sea, of which they are in possession,
they hold as tributaries almost all those who are accustomed
to traffic in that sea. With them arose the beginning [of the
revolt] by their detaining Silius and Velanius ; for they thought
that they should recover by their means the hostages which
they had given to Crassus. The neighboring people led on
by their influence (as the measures of the Gauls are sud-
den and hasty), detain Trebius and Terrasidius for the same
motive ; and quickly sending embassadors, by means of their
leading men, they enter into a mutual compact to do nothing
except by general consent, and abide the same issue of for-
tune ; and they solicit the other states to choose rather to con-
tinue in that liberty which they had received from their
ancestors, than endure slavery under the Romans. All the
sea coast being quickly brought over to their sentiments, they

Online LibraryJulius CaesarCæsar's Commentaries on the Gallic and civil wars: → online text (page 7 of 59)