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This webpage reproduces part of
Gallic War

Julius Caesar

Loeb Classical Library

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Gallic War

 p381  Book VII (chapters 1‑7)

1 When Gaul was quiet Caesar set out for Italy, as he had determined, to hold the assizes. There he heard of the murder of Clodius;1 and having been informed of the Senate's decree that all the younger men of military age2 in Italy should be sworn in, he decided to hold a levy throughout his province.3 These events were speedily reported to Transalpine Gaul. The Gauls added to the reports a circumstance of their own invention, which the occasion seemed to require, that Caesar was detained by the commotion at Rome and, in view of discords so serious, could not come to the army. Such an opportunity served as a stimulus to those who even before were chafing at their subjection to the sovereignty of Rome, and they began with greater freedom and audacity to make plans for a campaign. The chiefs of Gaul summoned conventions by mutual arrangement in remote spots and complained of the death of Acco. They pointed out that his fate might fall next upon themselves; they expressed pity for the common lot of Gaul; by all manner of promises and rewards they called for men to start the campaign and at the risk of their own life to champion the liberty of Gaul. First and foremost, they said,  p383 they must devise means, before ever their secret designs got abroad, to shut Caesar off from the army. It was an easy task, because the legions would not dare to march out of cantonments in the absence of the commander-in‑chief, nor could the latter without a strong escort reach the legions. Finally, it was better, they urged, to be slain in battle than to fail of recovering their old renown in war and the liberty which they had received from their forefathers.

2 When these subjects had been discussed, the Carnutes declared that there was no hazard they refused for the general welfare, and promised that they would be the first of all to make war; and, since in the present circumstances they could not give one another security by means of hostages, for fear the matter should get abroad, they asked for the sanction of an oath of honour before the assembled war‑standards — the formality which represents their most solemn ritual — to make sure that after beginning the campaign they should not be abandoned by the rest. Thereupon all present praised the Carnutes with one accord and gave their oath, and after appointing a season for the enterprise departed.

3 When the day came, the Carnutes, under the leadership of two desperate men, Cotuatus and Conconnetodumnus, rushed at a given signal on Cenabum, put to the sword the Roman citizens who had established themselves there for trading purposes — among them Gaius Fufius Cita, a Roman knight of distinction, who by Caesar's order was in charge of the cornº-supply — and plundered their goods. Speedily the report thereof was carried to all the states of Gaul. As a matter of fact, whenever any event of greater note or importance occurs, the Gauls shout it abroad through fields and districts  p385 and then others take it up in turn and pass it on to their next neighbours; as happened on this occasion. For deeds done at Cenabum at sunrise were heard of before the end of the first watch in the borders of the Arverni, a distance of about one hundred and sixty miles.

4 There in like fashion Vercingetorix, son of Celtillus, an Arvernian young of supreme influence (whose father had held the chieftainship of all Gaul and consequently,4 because he aimed at the kingship, had been put to death by his state), summoned his own dependents and easily fired their spirit. Directly his design was known there was a general rush to arms. Gobannitio, his uncle, and the rest of the chiefs, who did not think this adventure should be hazarded, sought to prevent him; he was cast out of the town of Gergovia, but he did not give up for all that; and in the fields he held a levy of beggars and outcasts. Then, having got together a body of this sort, he brought over to his own way of thinking all the members of his state whom he approached, urging them to take up arms for the sake of general liberty; and having collected large forces, he cast out of the state his opponents by whom he had been expelled a short time before. He was greeted as "King" by his followers. He sent out deputations in every direction, adjuring the tribesmen to remain loyal to him. He speedily added to his side the Senones, Parisii, Pictones, Cadurci, Turoni, Aulerci, Lemovices, Andi, and all the other maritime tribes; by consent of all, the command was bestowed upon him. In virtue of the power  p387 thus conferred he made requisition of hostages on all these states, and ordered a certain number of soldiers to be brought to him speedily; he determined what amount of arms, and by what date, each state should manufacture5 at home, and he paid especial attention to the cavalry. To the utmost care he added the utmost strictness of command, compelling waverers by severity of punishment. Indeed for the commission of a greater offence he put to death with fire and all manner of tortures; for a lesser case he sent a man home with his ears cut off or one eye gouged out, to point the moral to the rest and terrify others by the severity of the penalty.

5 By enforcing punishments of this sort he speedily raised an army, and he despatched Lucterius, a Cadurcan of the utmost intrepidity, with a part of the forces into the land of the Ruteni, while he himself started forth against the Bituriges. At his coming the Bituriges sent envoys to the Aedui, in whose allegiance they were, to ask for succour, so as to enable them the easier to withstand the enemy's forces. Acting on the advice of the deputies left by Caesar with the army, the Aedui sent a force of horse and foot to the support of the Bituriges. When they were come to the river Loire, which parts the Bituriges from the Aedui, they halted there for a few days; and, not venturing to cross the river, they returned home, and reported to the Roman deputies that their return was due to fear of treachery on the part of the Bituriges, who, they learnt, had planned that, if the Aedui crossed the river, they themselves should surround them on the one side, and the Arverni on the other. As we have no clear knowledge whether they acted as they did for the  p389 reason which they declared to the deputies, or from motives of treachery, it does not seem proper to state it as a certainty. Upon their departure the Bituriges at once joined the Arverni.

6 When these matters were reported to Caesar in Italy, he had already received intelligence that affairs in Rome had been brought by the energy of Gnaeus Pompeius into a more satisfactory state, and he therefore set out for Transalpine Gaul. Upon arrival there he was confronted with a great difficulty, as to the means whereby he could reach the army. For if he should summon the legions to the Province, he realised that on the march they might have to fight an action without his presence; if, on the other hand, he himself pressed on to the army, he saw that it was a mistake to entrust his personal safety at that time even to the tribes which appeared to be at peace.

7 Meanwhile Lucterius the Cadurcan, who had been sent into the country of the Ruteni, united that state with the Arverni. He then advanced into the land of the Nitiobriges and the Gabali, and received hostages from both tribes; and so, having collected a large force, he made an effort to overrun the Province in the direction of Narbo. On report of this Caesar thought that he should proceed to Narbo in preference to any other plan. When he was come thither he put new strength into timorous hearts by posting garrisons among the Ruteni of the Province, the Volcae Arecomici, the Tolosates, and around Narbo — all localities adjacent to the enemy; and he ordered a part of the forces of the Province, and the supplementary levy which he had brought with him from Italy, to assemble in the territory of the Helvii, which touches the borders of the Arverni.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 By Milo, 52 B.C.

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2 i.e. from seventeen years upwards; Rheinhard explains coniurare as = "to be sworn in en masse."

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3 i.e. Cisalpine Gaul.

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4 Ob eam causam may refer either to the chieftainship or to the attempt at the kingship. Celtillus evidently desired to advance from principatus to regnum.

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5 Or perhaps, in a less literal sense, "produce."

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