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

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send a common embassy to P. Crassus [to say], " If he wished
to receive back his officers, let him send back to them their

CHAP. IX. Caesar, being informed of these things by Cras-
sus, since he was so far distant himself, orders ships of war to
be built in the mean time on the river Loire, which flows into


the ocean ; rowers to be raised from the province ; sailors
and pilots to be provided. These matters being quickly
executed, he himself, as soon as the season of the year per-
mits, hastens to the army. The Veneti, and the other states
also, being informed of Cassar's arrival, when they reflected
how great a crime they had committed, in that, ihe embas-
sadors (a character which had among all nations ever
been sacred and inviolable) 1 had by them been detained and
thrown into prison, resolve to prepare for a war in pro-
portion to the greatness of their danger, and especially to
provide those things which appertain to the service of a
navy, with the greater confidence, inasmuch as they greatly
relied on the nature of their situation. They knew that
the passes by land were cut off by estuaries, that the ap-
proach by sea was most difficult, by reason of our ignorance
of the localities, [and] the small number of the harbors,
and they trusted that our army would not be able to stay
very long among them, on account of the insufficiency of
corn ; and again, even if all these things should turn out
contrary to their expectation, yet they were very powerful in
their navy. They well understood that the Romans neither
had any number of ships, nor were acquainted with the shal-
lows, the harbors, or the islands of those parts where they
would have to carry on the war ; and the navigation was very
different in a narrrow sea 2 from what it was in the vast and
open ocean. Having come to this resolution, they fortify
their towns, convey corn into them from the country parts,
bring together as many ships as possible to Veneti a, where
it appeared Caesar would at first carry on the war. They unite
to themselves as allies for that war, the Osismii, the Lexovii,
the Nannetes, 3 the Ambiliati, the Morini, the Diablintes,*
and the Menapii ; and send for auxiliaries from Britain,
which is situated over against those regions.

1 Frequent mention is made of the sacred and holy characters of em-
bassadors by Roman writers.

2 Literally, "far different in a narrow sea and in the vast and open

3 The Nannetes, or Namnetes, were a Celtic tribe, whose capital, Con-
divicnum, afterward Nannetes, is the modern Nantes, which preserves
the ancient name with a slight modification.

4 The Diablintes were a division of the Aulerci. Their capital, the
name of which was changed from Neodunum to Diablintes, is the modem


CHAP. X. There were these difficulties which we have men-
tioned above, in carrying on the war, but many things, never-
theless, urged Caesar to that war ; the open insult offered to
the state in the detention of the Roman knights, the rebellion
raised after surrendering, the revolt after hostages were given,
the cpnfederacy of so many states, but principally, lest if, [the con-
duct of] this part was overlooked, the other nations should think
that the same thing was permitted them. Wherefore, since ho
reflected that almost all the Gauls were fond of revolution,
and easily and quickly excited to war ; that all men likewise,
by nature, love liberty and hate the condition of slavery,
he thought he ought to divide and more widely distribute
his army, before more states should join the confederation.

CHAP. XL He therefore sends T..Labienus, his lieutenant,
with the cavalry to the Treviri, who are nearest to the river
Rhine. He charges him to visit the Remi and the other
Belgians, and to keep them in their allegiance and repel the
Germans (who where said to have been summoned by the Belgse
to their aid,) if they attempted to cross the river by force in
their ships. He orders P. Crassus to proceed into Aquitania
with twelve legionary cohorts and a great number of the cavalry,
lest auxiliaries should be sent into Gaul by these states, and
such great nations be united. He sends Q. Titurius Sabinus
his lieutenant, with three legions, among the Unelli, the Cu-
riosolltae, and the Lexovii, to take care that their forces should
be kept separate from the rest. He appoints D. Brutus, a young
man, over the fleet and those Gallic vessels which he had
ordered to be furnished 1 by the Pictones and the Santoni, and
the other provinces which remained at peace ; and commands
him to proceed toward the Veneti, as soon as he could. He
himself hastens thither with the land forces.

CHAP. XTT The sites of their towns were generally such
that, being placed on extreme points 2 [of land] and on pro-
montories, they neither had an approach by land when the
tide had rushed in from the main ocean, which always happens
twice in the space of twelve hours; nor by ships, because,
upon the tide ebbing again, the ships were likely to be dashed
upon the shoals. Thus, by either circumstance, was the
storming of their towns rendered difficult ; and if at any time

1 Lit. "to assemble from among," etc.

2 Lit. " small tongues."


perchance the Veneti overpowered by the greatness of our
works, (the sea having been excluded by a mound and large
dams, and the latter being made almost equal in height to the
walls of the town) had begun to despair of their fortunes ;
bringing up a large number of ships, of which they had a very
great quantity, they carried off all their property and betook
themselves to the nearest towns ; there they again defended
themselves by the same advantages of situation. They did
this the more easily during a great part of the summer, be-
cause our ships were kept back by storms, and the difficulty of
sailing was very great in that vast and open sea, with its
strong tides and its harbors far apart and exceedingly few
in number.

CHAP. XIII. For their ships were built and equipped
after this manner. The keels were somewhat flatter than
those of our ships, whereby they could more easily encounter
the shallows and the ebbing of the tide : the prows were raised
very high, and, in like manner the sterns were adapted to the
force of the waves and storms [which they were formed to sus-
tain]. The ships were built wholly of oak, and designed to
endure any force and violence whatever; the benches which
were made of planks a foot in breadth, were fastened by iron
spikes of the thickness of a man's thumb; the anchors were
secured fast by iron chains instead of cables, and for sails
they used skins and thin dressed leather. These [were used]
either through their want of canvas and their ignorance of its
application, or for this reason, which is more probable, that they
thought that such storms of the ocean, and such violent gales
of wind could not be resisted by sails, nor ships of such great
burden be conveniently enough managed by them. The en-
counter of our fleet with these ships 1 was of such a nature that
our fleet excelled in speed alone, and the plying of the oars ;
other things, considering the nature of the place [and] the
violence of the storms, were more suitable and better adapted
on their side ; for neither could our ships injure theirs with
their beaks 2 (so great was their strength), nor on account of

1 i. e. the relative character of the two was, etc.

2 " For neither could," etc. A similar remark is made in the next
chapter. And yet the rostrum (more commonly rostra, Greek /itfo/lof , or
Ip&ohov) supplied a very formidable instrument of ancient naval warfare.
It was a beam springing from a part just below the prow, and topped


their height was a weapon easily cast up to them ; and for tho
same reason they were less readily locked in by rocks. To
this was added, that whenever a storm began to rage and they
ran before the wind, they both could weather the storm more
easily and heave to securely in the shallows, and when left by
the tide feared nothing from rocks and shelves : the risk of all
which things was much to be dreaded by our ships.

CHAP. XIV. Caesar, after taking many of their towns,
perceiving that so much labor was spent in vain and that the
flight of the enemy could not be prevented on the capture of
their towns, and that injury could not be done them, he deter-
mined to wait for his fleet. As soon as it came up and was
first seen by the enemy, about 220 of their ships, fully equipped
and appointed with every kind of [naval] implement, sailed
forth from the harbor, and drew up opposite to ours ; nor did it
appear clear to Brutus, who commanded the fleet, or to the
tribunes of the soldiers and the centurions, to whom the se-
veral ships were assigned, what to do, or what system of tactics
to adopt ; for they knew that damage could not be done by
their beaks ; and that, although turrets were built [on their
decks], yet the height of the stems of the barbarian ships
exceeded these ; so that weapons could not be cast up from
[our] lower position with sufficient effect, and those cast by
the Gauls fell the more forcibly . upon us. One thing pro-
vided by our men was of great service, [viz.] sharp hooks 1
inserted into and fastened upon poles, of a form not unlike the
hooks used in attacking town walls. When the ropes which,
fastened the sail-yards to the masts were caught by them and
pulled, and our vessel vigorously impelled with the oars, they 2
[the ropes] were severed ; and when they were cut away, the

with sharp iron points or an iron figure of a ram's head. Though for-
merly always above the water they were in latter times placed below it,
and thus rendered more dangerous.

1 "Sharp hooks," (fakes prceacutti). The fakes here spoken of were,
probably, those arms which were much used under that name. Thefalx
was a large dagger with a coulter, or bill, projecting from one side. Such
implements, when fixed upon poles, were employed at the siege of towns.
One service of them was to loosen the stones of the walls. To this prac-
tice Caesar refers, De Bell. Gall. vii. 22. But Vegetiua, iv. 14, tells us
that a large falx was sometimes employed, instead of the more common
ram's head, for the purpose of attacking towns.

2 Literally, " gave themselves to the wind."



yards necessarily fell down ; so that as all the hope of the
Gallic vessels depended on their sails and rigging, upon these
being cut away, the entire management of the ships was
taken from them at the same time. The rest of the contest
depended on 1 courage ; in which our men decidedly had the
advantage ; and the more so, because the whole action was
carried on in the sight of Caesar and the entire army ; so that
no act, a little more valiant than ordinary, could pass unob-
served, for all the hills and higher grounds, from which there
was a near prospect of the sea were occupied by our army.

CHAP. XV. The sail-yards [of the enemy], as we have said,
being brought down, although two and [in some cases] three
ships [of theirs] surrounded each one [of ours], the soldiers
strove with the greatest energy to board the ships of the enemy ;
and, after the barbarians observed this taking place, as a great
many of their ships were beaten, and as no relief for that
evil could be discovered, they hastened to seek safety in
flight. And, having now turned their vessels to that quarter
in which the wind blew, so great a calm and lull suddenly
arose, that they could not move out of their place, which cir-
cumstance, truly, was exceedingly opportune for finishing the
business ; for our men gave chase and took them one by one, so
that very few out of all the number, [and those] by the inter-
vention of night, arrived at the land, after the battle had
lasted almost from the fourth hour* till sun-set.

CHAP. XVI. By this battle the war with the Veneti and
the whole of the sea coast was finished ; for both all the youth,
and all, too, of more advanced age, in whom there was any
discretion or rank, had assembled in that battle ; and they
had collected in that one place whatever naval forces they had
any where ; and when these were lost, the survivors had no place
to retreat to, nor means of defending their towns. They ac*
cordingly surrendered themselves and all their possessions to
Caesar, on whom Caesar thought that punishment should be
inflicted the more severely, in order that for the future the
rights of embassadors might be more carefully respected by
barbarians; having, therefore, put to death all their senate,
he sold the rest for slaves.

CHAP. XVII. While these things are going on among
the Veneti, Q. Titurius Sabinus with those troops which he

1 Lit. " was placed in." 2 Lit. " about ten in the morning."


had received from Caesar, arrives in the territories of the
Unelli. Over these people Viridovix ruled, and held the
chief command of all those states which had revolted ; from
which he had collected a large and powerful army.' Aad in
those few days, the Aulerci and the Sexovii, having slain their
senate because they would not consent to be promoters of
the war, shut their gates [against us] and united themselves
to Viridovix ; a great multitude besides of desperate men and
robbers assembled out of Gaul from all quarters, whom the
hope of plundering and the love of fighting had called away
from husbandry and their daily labor. Sabinus kept himself
within his camp, which was in a position convenient for every-
thing ; while Viridovix encamped over against him at a dis-
tance of two miles, and daily bringing out his forces, gave him
an opportunity of fighting ; so that Sabinus had now not only
come into contempt with the enemy, but also was somewhat
taunted by the speeches of our soldiers ; and furnished so great
a suspicion of his cowardice that the enemy presumed to ap-
proach even to the very rampart of our camp. He adopted
this conduct for the following reason : because he did not
think that a lieutenant ought to engage in battle with so great
a force, especially while he who held the chief command was
absent, except on advantageous ground or some favorable
circumstance presented itself.

CHAP. XVIII. After having established this suspicion of
his cowardice, he selected a certain suitable and crafty Gaul,
who was one of those whom he had with him as auxiliaries.
He induces him by great gifts and promises to go over to
the enemy ; and informs [him] of what he wished to be done.
Who, when he arrives among them as a deserter, lays
before them the fears of the Romans ; and informs them
by what difficulties Caesar himself was harassed, and that
the matter was not far removed from this that Sabinus would
the next night privately draw off his army out of the camp
and set forth to Caesar for the purpose of carrying [him]
assistance, which, when they heard, they all cry out together
that an opportunity of successfully conducting their enterprise,
ought not to be thrown away : that they ought to go to the
[Roman] camp. Many things persuaded the Gauls to this
measure ; the delay of Sabinus during the previous days ; the

1 Lit. "an army and large forces."


positive assertion of the [pretended] deserter ; want of pro-
visions, for a supply of which they had not taken the requisite
precautions ; the hope springing from the Venetic war ; and
[also] because in most cases men willingly believe what
they wish. Influenced by these things they do not dis-
charge Viridovix and the other leaders from the council,
before they gained permission from them to take up arms
and hasten to [our] camp ; which being granted, rejoicing as
if victory were fully certain, they collected faggots and brush-
wood, with which to fill up the Roman trenches, and hasten to
the camp.

CHAP. XIX. The situation of the camp was a rising-
ground, gently sloping from the bottom for about a mile.
Thither they proceeded with great speed (in order that as
little time as possible might be given to the Romans to
collect and arm themselves), and arrived quite out of breath.
Sabinus having encouraged his men, gives them the signal,
which they earnestly desired. While the enemy Avere encum-
bered by reason of the burdens which they were carrying, he
orders a sally to be made suddenly from two gates [of the camp].
It happened, by the advantage of situation, by the unskilfulness
and the fatigue of the enemy, by the valor of our soldiers,
and their experience in former battles, that they could not stand
one attack of our men, and immediately turned their backs ;
and our men with full vigor followed them while disor-
dered, and slew a great number of them ; the horse pursuing
the rest, left but few, who escaped by flight. Thus at the same
time, Sabinus was informed of the naval battle and Caesar of
victory gained by Sabinus ; and all the states immediately
surrendered themselves to Titurius : for as the temper of
the Gauls is impetuous and ready to undertake wars, so
their mind is weak, and by no means resolute in enduring
calamities. 1

CHAP. XX. About the same time, P. Crassus, when
he had arrived in Aquitania (which, as has been before
said, both from its extent of territory and the great num-
ber of its people, is to be reckoned a third part of Gaul, 2 )
understanding that he was to wage war in these parts,
where a few years before, L. Valerius Prseconinus, the lieu-

1 Polybius's character of the Gauls perfectly agrees with that of Caesar's
in both the points spoken of in the passage above.

2 Book i. 1.


tenant had been killed, and his army routed, and from which L.
Manilius, the proconsul, had fled with the loss of his baggage,
he perceived that no ordinary care must be used by him.
Wherefore, having provided corn, procured auxiliaries and
cavalry, [and] having summoned by name many valiant men
from Tolosa, Carcaso, and Narbo, which are the states of the
province of Gaul, that border on these regions [Aquitania], he
led his army into the territories of the Sotiates. On his
arrival being known, the Sotiates having brought together
great forces and [much] cavalry, in which their strength
principally lay, 1 and assailing our army on the march, en-
gaged first in a cavalry action, then when their cavalry was
routed, and our men pursuing, they suddenly display their
infantry forces, which they had placed in ambuscade in a
valley. These attacked our men [while] disordered, and renewed
the fight.

CHAP. XXI. The battle was long and vigorously contested,
since the Sotiates, relying on their former victories, imagined
that the safety of the whole of Aquitania rested on their
valor; [and] our men, on the other hand, desired it might
be seen what they could accomplish without their general and
without the other legions, under a very young commander ;
at length the enemy, worn out with wounds, began to turn
their backs, and a great number of them being slain, Crassus
began to besiege the [principal] town of the Sotiates on his
march. Upon their valiantly resisting, he raised vineae and
turrets. They at one time attempting a sally, at another
forming mines 2 to our rampart and vineae (at which the
Aquitani are eminently skilled, because in many places
among them there are copper mines) ; when they perceived
that nothing could be gained by these operations through

1 It need scarcely be observed that the infantry were then regarded aa
the main part of an army.

2 When a town could not be approached by vinece, the operations of
the siege were often carried on by the means of mines. These were
sometimes carried into the very heart of the place. When the object was
principally to sap the foundations of the walls, the part to be destroyed
was supported by upright wooden beams, which being fired, left the wall
to come down. This piece of warfare, we find, then, was also applied to
the fortifications of a camp. Another instance of this is found, De Bell.
Gall., vii. 22 ; where Csesar speaks also of skill derived from the civil
workings of mines applied to military purposes.


the perseverance of our men, they send embassadors to Cras-
sus, and entreat him to admit them to a surrender. Having
obtained it, they, being ordered to deliver up their arms,

CHAP. XXII. And while the attention of our men is en-
gaged in that matter, in another part Adcantuannus, who held
the chief command, with 600 devoted followers whom they call
soldurii 1 (the conditions of whose association are these, that
they enjoy all the conveniences of life with those to whose
friendship they have devoted themselves : if any thing calami-
tous happen to them, either they endure the same destiny
together with them, or commit suicide : nor hitherto, in the
memory of men, has there been found any one who, upon his
being slain to whose friendship he had devoted himself, refused
to die) ; Adcantuannus, [I say] endeavoring to make a sally
with these, when our soldiers had rushed together to arms, upon
a shout being raised at that part of the fortification, and a fierce
battle had been fought there, was driven back into the
town, yet he obtained from Crassus [the indulgence] that
he should enjoy the same terms of surrender [as the other in-

CHAP. XXIIL Crassus, having received their arms and
hostages, marched into the territories of the Vocates and the
Tarusates. But then, the barbarians being alarmed, because
they had heard that a town fortified by the nature of the place
and by art, 8 had been taken by us in a few days after our
arrival there, began to send embassadors' into all quarters, to
combine, to give hostages one to another, to raise troops. Em-
bassadors also are sent to those states of Hither Spain which
are nearest to Aquitania, and auxiliaries and leaders are sum-
moned from them ; on whose arrival they proceed to carry on the
war with great confidence, and with a great host of men. They
who had been with Q. Sertorius the whole period [of his war in

1 Soldurii. This seems a Celtic word. That the soldurii were persons
lying under feudal obligations to the persons whom they attended in
battle, and are to be regarded in the same light as tho persons (ambacti
clientesque) spoken of in book vi. 15, is at least doubtful. Plutarch
speaks of persons among the Egyptians devoting themselves to the service
of others for life and death (ervvaTroOvTJaKovTet). It is probable that the
soldurii acted only on sacred principles in this self-devotion, and were
thus an iepof ^.o^of.

2 Lit. "by hand."


Spain] and were supposed to have very great skill in military
matters, are chosen leaders. These, adopting the practice of
the Roman people, begin to select [advantageous] places,
to fortify their camp, to cut off our men from provisions,
which, when Crassus observes, [and likewise] that his forces,
on account of their small number could not safely be sepa-
rated ; that the enemy both made excursions and beset the
passes, and [yet] left sufficient guard for their camp ; that on
that account, corn and provision could not very conveniently
be brought up to him, and that the number of the enemy was
daily increased, he thought that he ought not to delay in giving
battle. This matter being brought to a council, when he dis-
covered that all thought the same thing, he appointed the next
day for the fight.

CHAP. XXIV. Having drawn out all his forces at the
break of day, and marshaled them in a double line, he
posted the auxiliaries in the center, and waited to see
what measures the enemy would take. They, although on ac-
count of their great number *and their ancient renown in war,
and the small number of our men, they supposed they might
safely fight, nevertheless considered it safer to gain the vic-
tory without any wound, by besetting the passes [and] cutting
off the provisions: and if the Romans, on account of the
want of corn, should begin to retreat, they intended to attack
them while encumbered in their march and depressed in spirit
[as being assailed while] under baggage. This measure being
approved of by the leaders and the forces of the Romans drawn
out, the enemy [still] kept themselves in their camp. Crassus
having remarked this circumstance, since the enemy, intimi-
dated by their own delay, and by the reputation [i. e. for cow-
ardice arising thence] had rendered our soldiers more eager

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