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Bill Thayer

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Hirtius: The Alexandrian War

The Author

Strictly speaking, the identity of this little book's author remains unknown. The unanimous consensus of Antiquity, however, and the almost as general opinion of modern scholar­ship ascribe it to Aulus Hirtius, a subordinate and partisan of Caesar's who succeeded him as one of the consuls the year after Caesar's assassination. The editor of the print edition transcribed here takes it for granted to the point that he mentions Hirtius only once in his introduction; in passing and with no commentary.

The Text of the Alexandrian War on LacusCurtius

The entire work is onsite: both the Latin text and an English translation by A. G. Way. The header bar of each page includes a link to the corresponding page in the other language; similarly, the little flags at the beginning of each chapter link to the corresponding chapter in the other language. Each language will open in its own window.

The work is too long to fit comfortably on a single webpage. I divided it into several, following the Loeb edition's "Analysis of the Book" (pp8‑9) which I also reproduce in the following Table of Contents. These webpage-sections of course have no authority; they are merely convenient.

The Loeb Editor's Introduction 3
Latine Analysis English

 p8  Operations at Alexandria and elsewhere in Egypt

Description of Alexandria — Caesar's policy to isolate his sector of the town and secure plentiful supplies — ingenious dispositions of the enemy — their fear of Egypt's becoming a Roman province. Arsinoe kills Achillas and entrusts her army to Ganymedes. The latter contaminates Caesar's water supply — panic in Caesar's army — Caesar's counter measures. Arrival of the Thirty-Seventh legion. Naval action near Chersonensusº — the enemy equip a new fleet — naval action in the harbour — gallantry of the Rhodian squadron. Further attack on Pharos, and on the mole and its second bridge — Caesar narrowly escapes drowning. He sends the king back to his people. Naval action off Canopus — death of Euphranor. Arrival at Pelusium of Mithridates with reinforcements from Syria and Cilicia — battle in the Delta — Caesar relieves Mithridates. Situation of the king's camp — Caesar foils his attempt at an ambush and proceeds to storm his camp. Defeat of the king and his forces — the king is drowned — Caesar reënters Alexandria in triumph — submission of the inhabitants. Caesar settles the royal succession.

1‑33 11

Operations in the East

Domitius Calvinus, the governor of Asia, learns that Pharnaces has over-run Lesser Armenia and Cappadocia — he assembles a force at Comana and sets out for Armenia. He approaches Nicopolis and receives an urgent request from Caesar for fresh reinforcements. Battle of Nicopolis — gallant conduct of the Thirty-Sixth legion — defeat and withdrawal of Domitius. Tyrannous behaviour of Pharnaces in Pontus.

34‑41 65

 p9  Operations in Illyricum

Success of the cautious policy of Q. Cornificius — he captures Octavius' fleet. Gabinius arrives in the province during the winter and sustains many reverses — is defeated while withdrawing on Salona and dies soon afterwards. Vatinius raises a scratch fleet at Brundisium and pursues Octavius — naval action off the island of Tauris — defeat of Octavius.

42‑47 77

Operations in Further Spain

Unpopularity of the governor, Q. Cassius Longinus — his efforts to win the affection of his troops — his extortions to finance his briberies. Caesar orders him to bring an army across to Africa. Attempt on his life at Corduba — his treatment of the ringleaders of this abortive plot. Mutiny of some of his legions while marching to the Straits — Marcellus is adopted as their leader. Cassius withdraws to Ulia where Marcellus follows him. King Bogud arrives in support of Cassius. Lepidus arrives from Hither Spain to compose the quarrel — Cassius is allowed to withdraw unmolested — he embarks at Malaca but is drowned at the mouth of the Ebro.

48‑64 89

Caesar personally conducts operations in the East

He arrives in Syria and learns of the unrest at Rome — decides he must first settle affairs in the East before returning to the city. He arrives in Cilicia — passes through Cappadocia — reaches Comana. He pardons king Deiotarus and then arrives in Pontus. Pharnaces makes evasive overtures — they are refused. Description of Zela — the tactics of the battle — total defeat of Pharnaces. Caesar returns through Gallograecia and Bithynia to Asia — details of his settlement of disputed territories — his arrival in Italy.

65‑78 115

Technical Details

Edition Used

Loeb Classical Library, 1955, in a volume containing also the African War and the Spanish War; my print copy, a 1988 reprint. The text is in the public domain because the copyright was not renewed at the appropriate time, which would have been in 1982 or 1983. (Details here on the copyright law involved.)

Chapters are marked by large numbers which are also local anchors, according to a consistent scheme; you can therefore link directly to any passage. The sections, which some writers refer to, are not marked because the Loeb edition does not indicate them. The Loeb edition pagination is also indicated by local links in the sourcecode.

Maps and Plans

The Loeb edition includes 2 maps — of Alexandria and of the wider theater of war — placed at the end of the book. I moved them to the pages where they are most relevant.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

This transcription has been minutely proofread. I run a first proofreading pass immediately after entering each section; then a second proofreading, detailed and meant to be final: in the table of contents above, the text and its accompanying material are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe them to be completely errorfree; any red backgrounds would mean that the chapter had not received that second final proofreading. The header bar at the top of each chapter page will remind you with the same color scheme.

The print edition was very well proofread; I spotted only one minor typographical error, which I marked with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the underscored word to read the variant. Inconsistencies or errors in punctuation are remarkably few; they have been corrected to the editor's usual style, in a slightly different color — barely noticeable on the page when it's a comma for example like this one, but it shows up in the sourcecode as <SPAN CLASS="emend">. Finally, a number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked. (Bullets before measurements, on the other hand, provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.)

Any over­looked mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have the printed edition in front of you.

[image ALT: A map of the ancient city of Alexandria in Egypt; in the upper left-hand corner, a portrait-bust of Julius Caesar. The image serves as the icon for Caesar's 'Alexandrian War' on this site.]

The icon with which I indicate this work is the Loeb edition's map of ancient Alexandria (reproduced full-size in the first section of text) — with the head of Caesar, from a bust in the museum of Corinth: the full-size original photograph is on the Caesar homepage.

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Page updated: 13 Feb 13