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VII.75‑90

This webpage reproduces part of
Gallic War

by
Julius Caesar

Loeb Classical Library
1917

The text is in the public domain.

This text has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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VIII.49‑55

Caesar
Gallic War

p515 Book VIII (chapters 1‑48)

By your continual reproaches, Balbus,1 which seemed to regard my daily refusal not as a plea caused by difficulty, but as an evasion due to indolence, I have been constrained to undertake a most difficult task. I have tacked a supplement to the Commentaries of our great Caesar on the operations in Gaul, as his previous and his subsequent writings did not otherwise fit together; and his last work,2 which was left unfinished from the operations at Alexandria3 onwards, I have completed as far as the conclusion, not indeed of civil discord, of which we see no end, but of Caesar's life. And I trust that those who will read it may understand how unwillingly I have undertaken the task of writing this Commentary; for so shall I the easier free myself from the charge of folly and presumption for having intruded myself in the middle of Caesar's writings. For it is universally agreed that nothing was ever so elaborately finished by others that is not surpassed by the refinement of these Commentaries. They have been published that historians may not lack knowledge of those great achievements; and so strong is the unanimous verdict p517of approval as to make it appear that historians have been robbed of an opportunity rather than enriched with one. Yet herein is our own admiration greater than all other men's; the world knows how excellently, how faultlessly, but we know also how easily, how speedily he completed his Commentaries. Caesar possessed not only the greatest facility and refinement of style, but also the surest skill in explaining his own plans. For myself, I had not the fortune ever to take part in the Alexandrian and the African campaign. It is true that those campaigns are partially known to me from the conversation of Caesar; but we listen in different fashion to events which fascinate us by their wonderful novelty, and to events which we are to state in evidence. Yet I doubt not that, in collecting every plea to excuse myself from comparison with Caesar, I incur a charge of presumption for imagining that there is anyone in whose judgment I can be set beside Caesar. Farewell.

1 The whole of Gaul was now subdued, and Caesar, having been continuously engaged in war since the previous summer, desired to refresh his troops with a rest in cantonments after their great exertions. Reports came, however, that several states at once were considering fresh plans of campaign and forming conspiracies. The reason suggested for this movement was probable. All the Gauls, it was said, were aware that, on the one hand, it was impossible to make a stand against the Romans by the concentration of any number of men in one place, and that, on the other, if a number of states attacked them in separate places at the same time, the army of Rome was not likely to have strength p519or time or troops enough to deal with everything. Wherefore it was not proper for a particular state to refuse any trouble that might befall, if by such a respite the remainder could reclaim their liberty.

2 Caesar did not wish to encourage the Gauls in this opinion: he therefore put Marcus Antonius, his quartermaster-general, in command of his own cantonments, and on the last day of December marched off himself, with an escort of cavalry, from the town of Bibracte to the quarters of the Thirteenth Legion, stationed in the country of the Bituriges not far from that of the Aedui, and he brigaded with it the Eleventh Legion, its next neighbour. Leaving two cohorts of each to guard the baggage, he led the rest of the army into the most fertile districts of the Bituriges, since, being the possessors of broad territories and numerous strongholds, they had proved more than a single legion in cantonments could restrain from warlike preparations and conspiracies.

3 The sudden coming of Caesar brought the inevitable consequence on a folk dispersed and unprepared. They were tilling their farms without the least fear, and they were caught by the cavalry before they could flee for refuge into the strongholds. For even the ordinary sign of a hostile inroad (which is usually perceived by the wholesale burning of farm-buildings) had been omitted by Caesar's command, in order that his supply of forage and cornº might not run short if he should wish to advance further, nor the enemy be frightened by the conflagrations. The capture of many thousand persons struck terror into the Bituriges; and those who had been able in the first instance to escape from the coming of the Romans had fled for refuge into neighbouring states, p521trusting either to private relations or to political sympathy. In vain; for by means of forced marches Caesar appeared in every corner, giving no state a chance of thought for another's safety rather than for its own; and by this rapidity of action he contrived at once to keep friends loyal and to bring doubters by intimidation to terms of peace. The Bituriges saw that the clemency of Caesar opened the way for a return to his friendship, and that neighbouring states, without punishment of any kind, had given hostages and had been readmitted to protection; and the chance of such terms induced them to do likewise.

4 In spite of winter days, the most difficult of marches, and cold weather beyond endurance, the troops had stuck most zealously to their work, and in reward for their effort and hardship Caesar promised them two hundred sesterces4 apiece, and as many thousand to each centurion, as a free gift in lieu of booty. Then he sent the legions back to cantonments, and himself returned on the fortieth day to Bibracte. While he was administering justice there the Bituriges sent deputies to him to seek help against the Carnutes who, as they complained, had made war upon them. On report of this, after a halt of no more than eighteen days in cantonments, he marched the Fourteenth and Sixth Legions from their cantonments on the Saône (these legions, as mentioned in the previous book of the Commentaries,5 he had stationed there to keep the corn-supply clear); then, with the two legions, he started to punish the Carnutes.

5 When report of the army reached the enemy, the influence of the disaster which had befallen the rest p523made itself felt. The Carnutes forsook the villages and the strongholds — in which they were living for protection against the winter, in mean buildings erected hastily to meet their need, for after their recent defeat6 they had abandoned many of their strongholds — and fled in all directions. Caesar was unwilling that his troops should be subjected to the storms which break out in especial vehemence just at that time; so he pitched camp at Cenabum, the town of the Carnutes, and crowded7 the men partly into the dwellings of the Gauls, partly into huts built on to them with the thatch hastily collected for roofing the tents in winter. The cavalry, however, and auxiliary infantry were sent in all directions which the enemy were said to have taken, and not in vain, for as a rule our men returned with great store of booty. The Carnutes were overcome by the distress of winter and the fear of danger; they were driven out of their homes and durst make no long stay in any place; nor when the storms were most severe could they get shelter in the protection of the woods. So they scattered abroad and dispersed among the neighbouring states, with the loss of a great part of their own folk.

6 It was now the most troublesome season of the year, and Caesar, deeming it sufficient to scatter bands that were assembling so as to prevent any new outbreak of war, and feeling sure, so far as could reasonably be reckoned, that no war of first-rate importance could be stirred up until the summer season,8 stationed Gaius Trebonius, with the two legions of his own command, in cantonments at Cenabum. By frequent deputations from the Remi he was receiving p525information that the Bellovaci (who surpassed all the Gauls and Belgae in renown of war) and the neighbouring states were preparing armies under the leadership of Correus of the Bellovaci and Commius of the Atrebates, and concentrating the same. Their object was to make an incursion with all their host into the country of the Suessiones, who were tributaries of the Remi; and as Caesar deemed it important not only to his honour, but even to his security, that no disaster should come upon allies who had deserved exceeding well of the Republic, he again called out the Eleventh Legion from cantonments. Further, he sent a despatch to Gaius Fabius bidding him bring his two legions into the country of the Suessiones, and summoned one of the two legions with Titus Labienus. Thus, so far as the situation of the cantonments allowed, and the tactics of the campaign required, he contrived, by continuous work on his own part, to lay the burden of expeditions on the legions in turn.

7 When this force was collected, he marched for the country of the Bellovaci, and having pitched camp therein, he despatched troops of cavalry in all directions to catch any prisoners they could from whom they might learn the enemy's plans. The cavalry performed their duty, and reported that in the buildings a few persons had been found; and even these had not stayed behind to till the fields (for the emigration had been thorough everywhere), but had been sent back to act as spies. By inquiring of these as to where the main body of the Bellovaci was and what was their intention, he found out that all the Bellovaci able to bear arms had assembled in one place, and likewise the Ambiani, Aulerci, Caleti, Veliocasses, and Atrebates; that they had chosen for their camp high ground in a wood surrounded by a marsh, p527and had collected all the baggage in the more distant woods; that several chiefs were responsible for the war, but the rank and file were mostly under the orders of Correus, because they had perceived that he was the one to whom the name of the Roman people was most hateful. He further learnt that a few days before Commius the Atrebatian had left their camp to bring up succours from the Germans, whose proximity was as imminent as their numbers were infinite. The Bellovaci, however, had determined, with the consent of all the chiefs and the utmost enthusiasm of the common folk, if Caesar, as was said, came with three legions, to offer battle, lest they might be compelled afterwards to fight it out with his whole army under conditions more miserable and severe. If Caesar brought up a larger force, they had determined to stand fast in the position they had chosen, while they tried, from ambuscades, to prevent the Romans from getting forage (which by reason of the time of year was both scanty and scattered), corn, and all other supplies.

8 Upon this information, in regard to which most of the prisoners were in agreement, Caesar considered that the plans proposed were full of a prudence far removed from the recklessness of barbarians, and decided accordingly to make all possible efforts to induce the enemy, by contempt for the scanty number of the Romans, to come forth the more speedily to battle. For the truth was that he had the Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Legions, real veterans of incomparable courage, and the Eleventh, a most promising corps of picked younger men: it was now on its eighth campaign, but in comparison with the rest had not yet won the same reputation for length of service and for courage. p529Accordingly, he summoned a council of war and set forth everything that had been reported to him; then he spoke encouragingly to the rank and file. To see if he could entice the enemy to a decisive battle by the appearance of only three legions, he arranged the order of the column as follows. The Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth were to march in front of all the baggage, and the Eleventh was to bring up the rear of the whole baggage-train (which, however, was but moderate, according to the custom on expeditions),9 to prevent the enemy from catching a sight of greater numbers than they themselves had challenged. By this arrangement he formed the army almost in battle column,10 and brought it within sight of the enemy before they expected it.

9 When the Gauls (whose plans in all their self-confidence had been reported to Caesar) suddenly saw the legions in their formation advancing upon them in regular step as in line of battle,11 they drew up their force in front of their camp, but — either because they felt the risk of a struggle, or because of the suddenness of our arrival, or because they waited to see our plan — did not move from the higher ground. Anxious as he had been to fight, Caesar was surprised at the greater number of the enemy, and set his camp over against that of the enemy, with a valley in between, deep rather than extensive. He commanded the camp to be fortified with a twelve-foot rampart, a p531breastwork to be built on in proportion to the height of the same,12 a double trench fifteen feet wide in each case to be dug with perpendicular sides, turrets three stories high to be set up at frequent intervals and connected by covered cross-bridges, having their front faces protected by a breastwork of wattles. His object was to hold the camp against the enemy by the double ditch and a double rank of defenders: one rank, posted on the bridges, from the greater safety afforded by height, could hurl its missiles with greater range and confidence; the other, posted on the actual rampart nearer the enemy, would be covered by the bridge from the showers of missiles. At the gateways he set doors and higher turrets.

10 The object of this fortification was twofold. He hoped that the size of the works and the evidence of fear on his part would bring confidence into the minds of the natives, and he saw that whenever it was necessary to march farther afield for forage and corn the fortification of itself would make it possible to defend the camp with a small force. Meanwhile there were frequent encounters across the marsh13 that lay between the two camps, for a few men would dash forward from either side; but sometimes our own Gallic or German auxiliaries would cross the marsh to pursue the enemy the more fiercely, or in turn the enemy would push across it and force our troops to give ground. Moreover, in the daily expeditions for forage it happened — as was inevitable, when forage had to be collected from homesteads few and far apart — that scattered foraging parties were surrounded in troublesome places; and p533this occurrence, though causing our troops an insignificant loss in draught-animals and slaves, served nevertheless to arouse foolish fancies in the mind of the natives, the more so as Commius, who, as I have shown, had departed to fetch German auxiliaries, was now come with some horsemen. It is true they were no more in number than five hundred; nevertheless, the arrival of these Germans gave the natives something to rely on.

11 Caesar remarked that for several days the enemy kept within their camp, which was fortified by the marsh and by its natural position, and that it could not be assaulted without an expensive action, nor the position enclosed by siege-works without a larger army than he had. Wherefore he sent a despatch to Trebonius to summon with all speed the Thirteenth Legion (which was wintering in the country of the Bituriges with Titus Sextius, lieutenant-general), and so with three legions to come to him by forced marches. He himself had called out a large number of horsemen belonging to the Remi, the Lingones, and other states; and he now sent these by turns to act as escort for the foraging parties and to resist sudden raids of the enemy.

12 This happened daily, and at length the sameness of the duty began to diminish carefulness — the usual result of long continuance in one thing. Then the Bellovaci chose out a detachment of footmen, and, as they knew the daily stations of our cavalry piquets, set ambuscades about in wooded spots, and on the morrow sent thither horsemen also, first to lure on our men, and then, when they were surrounded, to attack them. As it chanced, the blow fell upon the Remi, to whom the performance of duty for that day had been allotted. When they suddenly remarked p535the enemy's horsemen, and in their superiority of numbers despised the scanty force, they pursued too eagerly and were surrounded by footmen on every side. They were more speedily thrown into confusion by this occurrence than is usually the case in a cavalry combat, and retired with the loss of Vertiscus, a chief of their state and commander of the horse. Though he could scarcely sit a horse by reason of age, yet, according to the custom of the Gauls, he had made no excuse of age in undertaking the command, and he had desired that no battle should take place without him. The spirit of the enemy was fired and excited by the success of the combat and the slaughter of a chief and commander of the Remi, and our own troops were taught by the disaster to search localities more carefully before they posted their piquets and to pursue a retiring enemy with more restraint.

13 There was no interruption meanwhile of the daily combats in sight of both camps, which usually took place at the fords and passages over the marsh. In this sort of contest the Germans (whom Caesar had brought over the Rhine on purpose that they might fight intermingled with cavalry)14 on one occasion crossed the marsh in a body with much resolution, cut down such few men as stood their ground, and stubbornly pursued the rest of the host. The result was a panic, not only of those whom they caught at close quarters or wounded at long range, but even of those who formed the regular reserve at a distance. It was a disgraceful rout, which did not end until, after several times losing the advantage of position, the enemy reached once more their own camp, or in some cases were shamed into yet further flight. Their danger threw the whole force into such p537confusion that it was scarce possible to judge which was the greater — their arrogance after a trifling success, or their terror after a slight reverse.a

14 After several days spent in the same camp, the chiefs of the Bellovaci learnt that the legions with Gaius Trebonius, lieutenant-general, were come nearer; and fearing a siege like that of Alesia, they thought to send away at night all persons failing in years or strength, or unarmed, and the rest of the baggage along with them. While they were marshalling the crowded and disorderly column (for a great quantity of carts usually accompanies the Gauls, even when they are moving light), daybreak came upon them, and they drew up their force of armed men in front of their own camp, for fear that the Romans might essay to pursue them before their baggage-train had advanced to any distance. Caesar, however, considered that if they stood their ground they should not be attacked, owing to the steepness of the ascent, and yet that the legions should certainly be moved up close enough to make it impossible for the natives to withdraw from the spot without risk of an attack. Seeing, therefore, that camp was divided from camp by a troublesome marsh so difficult to cross that it could check the speed of a pursuit, and remarking that beyond the marsh the ridge, stretching almost to the enemy's camp, was cut off from the same by but a slight valley, he had gangways laid over the marsh, led the legions across, and speedily reached the highest plateau on the ridge, which was protected on its two sides by a downward slope. There he reformed the legions, and then reached the end of the ridge, where he posted his line of battle in a spot from which the missiles of the artillery could be discharged into the masses of the enemy.

p539 15 The natives relied on the natural strength of the position; and while they did not intend to decline battle, if perchance the Romans should try to mount the hill, they could not send their forces away gradually in detachments, for fear that, if so dispersed, they would be put to confusion. So they stood fast in line. Caesar noted their stubbornness, and forming up twenty cohorts, he measured out a camp on the spot and ordered it to be entrenched. The works finished, he set the legions in battle array before the rampart, and placed the cavalry, with chargers bridled, on outpost. The Bellovaci saw that the Romans were ready for pursuit, and feeling that they could not spend the night where they were, nor, indeed, remain longer without danger, they determined on the following plan of retirement. They had a very large quantity of straw bales and faggots in their camp; and passing these from hand to hand between them where they sat (for, as stated in former books of Caesar's Commentaries, it is the custom of the Gauls to sit in line of battle), they piled them in front of their line, and at the end of the day they fired them simultaneously at a given signal. So a continuous flame suddenly covered the whole force from the sight of the Romans. When this occurred, the natives fled away at a most furious speed.

16 Caesar could not observe the withdrawal of the enemy through the screen of fires, but, nevertheless, suspecting that the stratagem had been adopted with flight in view, he advanced the legions and despatched troops of cavalry in pursuit. He himself p541moved forward more slowly, fearing an ambuscade — in other words, that the enemy might perhaps try to hold their ground and to entice our troops onto unfavourable ground. The cavalry feared to enter the smoke and the thick belt of flame, and even if any more eager spirits entered therein, they scarce could make out the front part of their own horses; wherefore, in fear of an ambuscade, they gave the Bellovaci a free chance of retirement. So they fled, with as much of cunning as of fear, and with no loss; and proceeding no more than ten miles, they pitched camp in a strongly fenced place. Thence, often setting horsemen and foot in ambuscades, they wrought great havoc upon the Roman foraging parties.

17 This happened somewhat frequently, and from a prisoner Caesar discovered that Correus, the chief of the Bellovaci, had chosen six thousand footmen and a thousand horse from the total number, to put them in ambuscade at a spot to which he suspected the Romans would be sending because of the store and corn and forage there. Upon information of this design Caesar brought out more legions than usual, and pushed forward cavalry, according to his practice of sending such as an escort for foraging parties,15 and among them he put light-armed auxiliaries. He himself approached as near as possible with the legions.

18 The enemy were set about in ambuscades. They had chosen for the despatch of the business a plain16 extending nor more than a mile in every direction, fenced every way by woods or by a most troublesome river: this plain they surrounded with a network of p543ambuscades. The enemy's design was found out, and our men, with hearts and hands all ready for fight — for with the legions supporting they had no idea of declining battle — reached the spot troop by troop. Their arrival led Correus to suppose that a chance of despatching the business was offered him; and showing himself first with a few men, he charged the nearest troops of cavalry. Our men stoutly withstood the onrush of the ambuscaders without crowding together — and when such crowding occurs, as it generally does in cavalry combats, through a sense of fear, the mere numbers of the men engaged cause loss.

19 Our troops of cavalry were thus posted in different places, and when scattered parties began one after another to engage, to prevent their comrades being outflanked, the rest of the enemy, while Correus was fighting, burst out of the woods. In different parts of the field a fierce struggle began; and as it tended to drag on indecisively, little by little there issued from the woods a formed body of footmen, which forced our cavalry to give way. But they were speedily supported by the light-armed infantry, which, as I have mentioned, had been sent on in front of the legions, and these, taking post between the troops of our cavalry, fought stoutly. For some time the battle was evenly contested; then, as was inevitable from the nature of the engagement, the troops which had withstood the first attack from the ambuscades began to get the better of it just because they had not suffered any damage from the ambuscaders through want of judgment.17 Meanwhile the legions were drawing nearer, and frequent reports were p545being brought alike to our own side and to the enemy to the effect that the commander-in‑chief was come with troops in order of battle. When they learnt this our men, relying on the support of the cohorts, fought most fiercely, for they feared that if they were too slow of execution they would be thought to have shared the glory of victory with the legions. The enemy's spirits fell, and by different roads they sought to flee. In vain; for they themselves were held fast by those difficulties of the locality, by which they had hoped to cut off the Romans. Still, beaten and broken as they were, and panic-stricken by the loss of more than half their number, they fled on, part by way of the woods, part by the river-side; yet even these fugitives were slain by the eager pursuit of our men. Meanwhile Correus, in no wise conquered by disaster, could not be induced to withdraw from the engagement and seek the woods, nor to surrender at our summons; nay, fighting most gallantly and wounding many men, he compelled the victors, in a frenzy of rage, to hurl their missiles against him.

20 The business had been despatched after this fashion, and the traces of the combat were still fresh, when Caesar came on the scene. He supposed that the enemy were crushed by so dire a disaster, and that upon report thereof they would abandon their camping-ground, said to be not farther than eight miles, more or less, from the field of slaughter. He saw that his passage was impeded by the river, but, none the less, he led the army across and advanced. But when the Bellovaci and the rest of the states received suddenly among them the few fugitives, and those wounded, who by the help of the woods had escaped destruction, they recognized their disaster, p547seeing that all was against them, that Correus was slain, that their horsemen and the most gallant of their footmen were lost. And as they thought the Romans were coming upon them they suddenly summoned a conference by trumpet-call, and clamoured that deputies and hostages should be sent to Caesar.

21 When this counsel was approved by all, Commius the Atrebatian escaped to the Germans from whom he had borrowed succours for that campaign. The rest at once sent deputies to Caesar, and besought him to be satisfied with a punishment of his enemy which, had he been able to inflict it without a battle while their strength was unimpaired, in his mercy and kindness he would assuredly never have inflicted. The power of the Bellovaci was crushed, they said, by the cavalry combat; many thousand chosen footmen had perished, scarcely had men escaped to tell of the slaughter. Nevertheless, for all the greatness of the disaster, the Bellovaci had gained one advantage by the combat, in the slaughter of Correus, who had originated the campaign and stirred up the people. For never during his lifetime had the council possessed so much power in the state as the untutored populace.

22 To this petition of the deputies Caesar remarked that in the previous year the Bellovaci and the rest of the Gallic states had simultaneously engaged in war: the Bellovaci had stuck to their intention the most obstinately of all, and had not been brought to a right mind by the surrender of the rest. He was very well aware that it was easy enough to shift the blame of the offence on to the dead. But no one was so powerful that, if chiefs were reluctant, the council in opposition, and all good citizens adverse, p549he could excite and conduct a war by means of a feeble band of common folk. Nevertheless, he would be satisfied with the punishment which they had brought upon themselves.

23 In the ensuing night the deputies reported his replies to the people, and the tale of hostages was made up. Deputies met hastily together from the rest of the states, which were watching to see how the Bellovaci fared. They gave hostages and did as commanded, with the exception of Commius, whom fear prevented from entrusting his personal safety to the honour of any man. The truth was that in the previous year, while Caesar was in Nearer Gaul administering justice, Titus Labienus, having discovered Commius to be tampering with the states and forming a conspiracy against Caesar, determined that his faithlessness might be suppressed without any breach of faith. And as he did not suppose that Commius would come to the camp on a summons, he did not wish to make him more cautious by any such attempt; he therefore sent Gaius Volusenus Quadratus to compass his execution on pretence of parley. He gave him a party of centurions, chosen as fit for the purpose. When they were come to the parley, and, as agreed, Volusenus seized the hand of Commius, a centurion — unsteadied, it may be, by the strangeness of the task, or speedily prevented by the friends of Commius — could not despatch the man; however, with the first stroke he dealt him a severe blow on the head. Swords were drawn on both sides, but both thought not so much of fight as of flight, our own men because they believed that Commius had got a mortal wound, the Gauls because they knew it was an ambush, and feared more trouble p551than they saw. After this deed Commius, it was said, had resolved never to come within sight of any Roman.

24 So the most warlike nations were subdued; and as he saw that there was no longer any state able to compass a war of resistance to himself — that not a few persons were moving out of the towns and fleeing away from the fields to avoid the dominion at their gates — Caesar determined to divide the army into several parts. Marcus Antonius, the quartermaster-general, with the Twelfth Legion he attached to his own force. Gaius Fabius, lieutenant-general, with five-and‑twenty cohorts he sent to an entirely different part of Gaul, because he heard that certain states there were in arms, and believed that the two legions with Gaius Caninius Rebilus, the lieutenant-general in those parts, were not strong enough. Titus Labienus he summoned to join him, sending the Fifteenth Legion, however, which had been with Labienus in cantonments, to Italian Gaul18 to protect the colonies of Roman citizens and to prevent the occurrence of a disaster, through a raid of barbarians, similar to that which had occurred the summer before to the men of Tergeste,19 who had been overwhelmed by a sudden assault of Illyrian brigands. He himself moved off to devastate and plunder the country of Ambiorix; and, in despair of being able to bring the frightened fugitive into his power, he deemed it the best thing, out of regard for his own prestige, so completely to strip his territory of citizens, buildings, p553and cattle as to make Ambiorix hated by any of his subjects who might chance to survive, and to leave him no return to the state by reason of disasters so grievous.

25 He despatched legions or auxiliaries into every part of the country of Ambiorix, wrought general devastation by slaughter, fire, and pillage, killed or captured a large number of persons. He then sent Labienus with two legions against the Treveri. This state, by reason of its proximity to Germany and its training in daily wars, differed little from the Germans in its habits of barbarity, and never submitted to commands except under compulsion of an army.

26 Meanwhile Gaius Caninius, lieutenant-general, had learnt by despatches and messages from Duratius that a great host of the enemy had assembled in the country of the Pictones. Duratius had remained throughout in amity with the Romans, though a certain part of his state had revolted. Caninius therefore pushed forward towards the town of Lemonum (Poitiers), and as he came near it he received more definite information from prisoners that Duratius was shut up in Lemonum and attacked by Dumnacus, chief of the Andes, with many thousand men. Not venturing to pit weak legions against the enemy, the Roman commander pitched camp in a fenced position. When Dumnacus learnt the approach of Caninius, he turned the whole of his force against the legions and prepared to assault the Roman camp. After spending several days on the assault, and failing, though with great loss of his men, to break down any part of the entrenchments, he returned again to the siege of Lemonum.

p555 27 Gaius Fabius, lieutenant-general, was readmitting several states to protection, with hostages to confirm the same, just at the moment when by a despatch from Gaius Caninius Rebilus he learnt what was happening in the country of the Pictones. Upon the information he started to render assistance to Duratius. But when Dumnacus learnt of the arrival of Fabius he despaired of safety, if he were to be compelled at one and the same time to withstand a Roman enemy outside and to keep an anxious watch upon the townsfolk; so he suddenly retired with his force from the place, thinking that he would not be really safe unless he marched his force across the river Loire, which by reason of its size had to be crossed by a bridge. Fabius was not yet come within sight of the enemy and had not joined forces with Caninius; nevertheless, on information derived from those who knew the character of the country, he believed that the enemy in panic would make for the spot for which they were actually making. So he pressed on with his force to the same bridge, and commanded the cavalry to advance to such a distance in front of the column as should make it possible, after such advance, to retire without fatiguing the horses to the same camp as himself. The Roman cavalry went in chase, according to their instructions, and attacked the column of Dumnacus, and as their assault was delivered upon panic-stricken fugitives in heavy marching order they slew many and got great spoil. So, their business well done, they retired to camp.

28 The following night Fabius sent on the cavalry with instructions to fight and to delay the whole column till he himself should come up. And in p557order to carry out the operation in accordance with these instructions Quintus Atius Varus, commander of the cavalry, a soldier of uncommon spirit and sagacity, after haranguing his men, caught up the enemy's column and, placing part of his troops of cavalry in suitable positions, with part engaged in combat. The enemy's cavalry fought with the greater boldness because their footmen were coming up in support, and the latter, halting their whole column, rendered assistance to their cavalry against ours. A fiercely contested combat ensued. Our cavalry despised an enemy they had beaten the day before, and, remembering that the legions were following up, were ashamed to yield and eager to finish the combat by themselves, so that they fought most gallantly against the footmen; while the enemy, believing, according to their information of the day before, that there were no more troops to come up, thought they had got a chance of exterminating our cavalry.

29 As the fight went on for some time with the utmost keenness, Dumnacus was drawing up his line to furnish in due turn a support for his horsemen, when suddenly the legions in close order came into view of the enemy. At sight of them the troops of native horse were paralyzed, the enemy's line was terror-struck; and throwing their baggage-column into confusion, with a great shout they scattered in every direction and betook themselves to flight. Then our own cavalry, who a moment before had been struggling most gallantly with a resisting foe, set up a great shout on every hand in the joyful excitement of victory and surrounded them as they retreated, and in that encounter they slew as long as their horses had strength to pursue and their p559hands to strike. So more than twelve thousand, armed men or men who had flung away their arms in the panic I have described, were slain, and the whole train of the baggage was captured.

30 After the rout it became known that Drappes, a Senonian — who at the first outbreak of the revolt in Gaul had collected desperadoes from anywhere and everywhere, calling slaves to liberty, summoning exiles from every state, and harbouring brigands, and with these forces had cut off the baggage-trains and supplies of the Romans — with no more than two thousand men, collected from the rout, was making for the Province; and that Lucterius the Cadurcan, who (as we know from the preceding book20 of the Commentaries) had desired to make an attack on the Province at the beginning of the Gallic revolt, had made common cause with him. Wherefore Caninius, the lieutenant-general, pressed on with two legions in pursuit of them to prevent the dire disgrace that must result, by loss of panic in the Province, from the acts of these desperate brigands.

31 Gaius Fabius, with the rest of the army, marched off against the Carnutes and the other states whose forces, as he knew, had been worsted in the battle which he had fought with Dumnacus. He had, indeed, no doubt that they would prove more submissive in view of the recent disaster, but felt that, if time and space were granted, they might be stirred up again on the provocation of Dumnacus. And on this occasion Fabius was attended by the most signal and speedy success in his recovery of the states. The Carnutes, who, though often harassed, had never made mention of peace, gave hostages and surrendered; and the other states aid in the most distant p561borders of Gaul, next the Ocean, the Armoric states so‑called, were constrained by the example of the Carnutes to submit at once to orders when Fabius and the legions arrived. Dumnacus was driven out of his own country and compelled, in secret, solitary wanderings, to seek the uttermost parts of Gaul.

32 But Drappes and his partner Lucterius, when they learnt that Caninius and the legions were at hand, conceived that with an army at their heels they could not enter the confines of the Province without certain destruction; and as they had no chance of ranging freely and committing acts of brigandage, they halted in the country of the Cadurci. Lucterius had wielded great power there among his own countrymen in earlier days when their fortunes were unimpaired, and a champion of revolution always exercised great influence among the natives. With his own and Drappes' forces he occupied Uxellodunum,21 formerly a dependency of his, a town exceedingly well protected by its natural position, and he added the townsfolk to his force.

33 Thither with all speed came Gaius Caninius. He noticed that every part of the town was protected by the most precipitous rocks, which, even if undefended, it was difficult for armed men to climb; but at the same time he saw that the townsfolk had great quantities of baggage, and that, if they tried to remove it in secret flight, they would be unable to escape not only the cavalry but even the legions. Accordingly he divided his cohorts into three detachments, and formed three camps on very high ground, from which he proceeded by degrees, according to the capacity of his troops, to run a rampart all round the town.

p563 34 When the townsfolk remarked this they were filled with anxiety, remembering the utter distress at Alesia, and fearing that a blockade might have similar result; and Lucterius most of all, having experienced that fate, admonished them to have a care for the corn-supply. By general consent, therefore, the two leaders determined to leave a part of their force there, and to set forth with a body of light-armed troops to get corn into the town. This plan being approved, Drappes and Lucterius the following night left behind two thousand armed men and led the rest out of the town. In the space of a few days this party collected a great quantity of corn from the country of the Cadurci, some of whom were eager to assist them with a supply, while others were unable to prevent them from taking it; and several times they moved by night to attack our forts. Therefore Gaius Caninius delayed to make a ring of entrenchments all round the town, for fear he might not be able to defend the works when finished or might have to post weak detachments in a number of separate positions.

35 Having collected great store of corn, Drappes and Lucterius established themselves not more than ten miles from the town, intending from this point to convey the corn into the town by degrees. The commanders divided the duties between them: Drappes stood fast with part of the force to guard the camp, Lucterius escorted the train of animals to the town. Having posted several detachments thereabout, he began about the tenth hour of the night to carry the corn into the town by narrow paths through the woods. The camp sentries noticed the noise thereof, and scouts, being sent out, reported what was afoot; so Caninius moved speedily with p565cohorts (which had stood to arms) from the nearest forts and attacked the corn-carriers just before dawn. They were panic-struck by the sudden blow, and fled helter-skelter to their own detachments. When our men saw it they dashed the more fiercely against the armed men, and suffered not one of the number to be taken alive. Lucterius fled away from the spot with a few followers, and did not return to the camp.

36 After his success Caninius discovered from the prisoners that a part of the force was with Drappes in camp not much more than twelve miles away. He ascertained this from several persons, and perceiving that if they were panic-stricken by the rout of one chief, the rest could easily be overwhelmed, he thought it a great piece of fortune that no one had escaped from the slaughter to the camp to bring news to Drappes of the disaster they had suffered. But, though he saw no danger in the attempt, he sent forward to the enemy's camp all the cavalry and the German infantry, the swiftest of troops, and, distributing one legion between the three camps, himself led off the other in light order. When he was come nearer the enemy, he learnt from the scouts he had sent forward that, according to the general rule of the natives, the higher ground had been abandoned and the camp brought down to the banks of the river; also that the Germans and cavalry had caught them altogether unawares when they swooped suddenly upon them, and had engaged. On this report he brought up the legion, armed and formed for action, and then suddenly, at a given signal, the upper ground was surrounded and captured. When this happened, the Germans and the cavalry, at sight of the standards of the line, fought with the utmost fury. The cohorts charged at once from all sides, p567and as every man was killed or captured much booty fell into their hands. Drappes himself was captured in that engagement.

37 After this brilliant success, with scarce a soldier wounded, Caninius returned to the blockade of the townsfolk; and now that he had exterminated the enemy outside, in fear of whom he had hitherto been prevented from breaking up his force into detachments22 and surrounding the townsfolk with an entrenchment, he commanded siege-works to be carried out on every side. Next day Gaius Fabius joined him there with his own force and took a part of the town to blockade.

38 Meanwhile Caesar left Marcus Antonius, quartermaster-general, with fifteen cohorts in the country of the Bellovaci, in order to give the Belgae no further chance of framing rebellious designs. He himself visited the rest of the states, making requisition of more hostages and quieting the general apprehension by words of encouragement. When he was come to the Carnutes, the state in which (as Caesar explained in the preceding book of his Commentaries)23 the war had originated, he remarked that they were especially alarmed owing to their consciousness of guilt; and the more speedily to free the state from apprehension he demanded for punishment Gutruatus, the ringleader in that crime24 and the instigator of the rebellion. And although the man would not trust himself even to his fellow-countrymen, all bestirred themselves speedily to seek him out and bring him to the camp. In opposition to his own natural inclination, Caesar was compelled to execute him by the troops who gathered in a mighty crowd, for they attributed to him all the dangers and losses of the war. He was therefore scourged to death and then decapitated.

p569 39 At this point Caesar learned by frequent despatches from Caninius what had been done with Drappes and Lucterius and what was the steadfast purpose of the townsfolk. And though he disregarded their small numbers, he judged nevertheless that their obstinacy must be visited with a severe punishment, for he feared that the Gauls as a whole might suppose that what had been lacking in them for resisting the Romans was not strength, but resolution; and that the rest of the state might follow this example and rely on any advantage offered by strong positions to reassert their liberty. All the Gauls were aware, as he knew, that there was one more summer season25 in his term of office, and that, if they could hold out for that, they had no further danger to fear. And so, leaving Quintus Calenus, lieutenant-general, with the legions to follow after him by regular marches,26 he himself with the whole of the cavalry pressed on with all speed to join Caninius.

40 He reached Uxellodunum altogether unexpected. He perceived that the town was surrounded by siege-works and that the enemy had no chance of retreat from an assault, and he had learnt from deserters that the townsfolk were well supplied with a large quantity of corn; he began, therefore, to try to cut off their water. A river ran through the bottom of the valley which almost entirely surrounded the hill, and on the hill was built the town of Uxellodunum, with a precipice on every side. The lie of the ground prevented a diversion of the river, for its course at the very base of the hill was such that it could nowhere be drawn off by sinking trenches. But the townsfolk had a difficult and precipitous descent to p571the river, so that our troops, without danger to life or limb, could prevent them from either approaching the river or retiring up the steep ascent. Caesar remarked this difficulty of theirs, and by posting archers and slingers thereabout, and, further, by placing artillery at certain points opposite the easiest lines of descent, he sought to cut off the townsfolk from the river-water.

41 Subsequently the whole host of water-carriers assembled at one spot, immediately under the town wall. A great spring of water gushed out there, on the side where for an interval of about three hundred feet there was a break in the circuit of the river. All the Romans wished that the townsfolk could be cut off from this spring, but Caesar alone saw how it could be done. He began, just opposite the place, to push up mantlets against the hill and to build a ramp with great effort and continual fighting; for the townsfolk ran down from the higher ground and engaged without risk at long range, wounding many men as they doggedly worked upwards. However, our troops were not to be deterred from thrusting the mantlets forward and from defeating the local difficulties by sheer labour of engineering. At the same time they were pushing forward covered mines from the mantlets to the head of the spring; and this kind of work involved no risk, and could be done without suspicion on the part of the enemy. The ramp was built up to a height of sixty feet, and upon it was set a turret of ten stories, not, indeed, to reach the level of the walls, for no siege-works could effect that, but to overtop the level of the spring. When the artillery from the turret began to discharge missiles upon the line of approach to the spring, and the townsfolk p573could not get water without danger, not only cattle and beasts of burden, but even the great host of the enemy, were like to die of thirst.

42 Terror-struck by this trouble, the townsfolk filled tubs with grease, pitch, and shingles, and rolled them burning on to the works, at the same time engaging with the utmost ferocity in order that the danger of the fight might prevent the Romans from extinguishing the fire. A mighty flame suddenly shot forth in the midst of the works; for everything that was discharged over the escarpment was held up by the mantlets and the ramp, and set fire to the particular object which checked its course. On the other hand, our soldiers, though handicapped by the dangerous position, none the less endured every difficulty in the most gallant spirit. For the action went on at a considerable height and in sight of our army, and great shouting arose on both sides. So each man, in as conspicuous a fashion as he could — the better to make his valour known and approved — faced alike the missiles of the enemy and the flames.

43 Seeing not a few of his men wounded, Caesar ordered cohorts to climb the height from every side of the town and under pretence of attacking the walls to raise a shout all round. This action terrified the townsfolk, and in their uncertainty as to what was going on in the other quarters they replaced their men-at‑arms from the attempt on the works and set them along the walls. So our men, when the fighting ceased, speedily extinguished or cut away the parts of the works which had caught fire. Although the townsfolk continued to resist stoutly, and stuck to their resolve, even when they had lost p575a great part of their number through thirst, at last by means of the mines the feeders of the spring were cut off and diverted. This caused the perpetual spring suddenly to dry up, and wrought such despair of deliverance in the townsfolk that they thought it due, not to the device of man, but to the act of God. And so necessity forced them to surrender.

44 Caesar's clemency, as he knew, was familiar to all, and he did not fear that severer action on his part might seem due to natural cruelty; at the same time he could not see any successful issue to his plans if more of the enemy in different districts engaged in designs of this sort. He therefore considered that the rest must be deterred by an exemplary punishment; and so, while granting them their lives, he cut off the hands of all who had borne arms, to terrify the more openly the penalty of evildoers. Drappes, taken prisoner by Caninius, as I have related, was so mortified at the indignity of bondage, or so fearful of yet more grievous punishment, that he abstained from food for a few days and so met his death. At the same time Lucterius, who escaped from the fight, as I described, came into the hands of Epasnactus, an Arvernian; for he had to change his quarters frequently and to entrust himself to the honour of many persons, as he felt that he could make no long stay anywhere without danger, conscious as he was how bitter an enemy he must have in Caesar. And now Epasnactus the Arvernian, a devoted friend of the Roman people, put him in bonds without hesitation and brought him in to Caesar.

45 Meanwhile, in the country of the Treveri, Labienus fought a cavalry combat with success, killing not a few of the Treveri and of the Germans, who never refused succours to any state against the Romans. p577Their chiefs he got into his power alive, among them Surus the Aeduan, a man of the highest distinction in courage as well as lineage, and the only Aeduan who had remained in arms up to that time.

46 On report of this, Caesar saw that matters were going well in every part of Gaul, and he judged that in the campaigns of the previous summers Gaul had been conquered and subdued. But as he himself had never visited Aquitaine, though he had partially conquered it by the campaign of Publius Crassus, he started with two legions for that part of Gaul, to spend there the campaign season of his last summer.27 And he carried out this work, like all others, with speed and success, for all the states of Aquitaine sent deputies to him and gave hostages. These affairs settled, he started for Narbonne with an escort of cavalry, despatching the army to winter quarters under command of the lieutenant-generals. Four legions he stationed in Belgium, with the generals Marcus Antonius, Gaius Trebonius, and Publius Vatinius; two he despatched into the country of the Aedui, whose influence he knew to be supreme in the whole of Gaul; two he stationed among the Turoni, on the borders of the Carnutes, to hold all that district next to the Ocean; the remaining two in the country of the Lemovices, not far from the Arverni, in order that no part of Gaul might be without an army. He himself stayed for a few days in the Province, and speedily passed through all the assize towns, investigated matters of public dispute, and assigned rewards to the meritorious; for he had the best possible chance of learning what had been the p579temper of each person in that revolt of all Gaul which he had withstood by the loyalty and the succours of that Province. This business despatched, he retired to the legions in Belgium and wintered at Nemetocenna.

47 There he learnt that Commius the Atrebatian had had an encounter with the Roman cavalry. The truth was that Antonius had gone into cantonments, and the state of the Atrebates was loyal; but Commius, after the wound which I have related above,28 had kept himself always in readiness for any rising in the interest of his fellow-countrymen, that when they sought a plan of campaign they might not lack a man to inspire and to lead their arms. And now, when the state was in obedience to the Romans, with his own horsemen he supported himself and his followers by acts of brigandage, and by infesting the roads he cut off several trains of supplies which were being conveyed to the cantonments of the Romans.

48 Gaius Volusenus Quadratus had been attached as cavalry commander to Antonius, to winter with him, and Antonius despatched him to pursue the enemy's horse. With the unique courage which he possessed Volusenus combined great hatred of Commius, so that he was the more willing to carry out his order. So he set ambuscades about, attacked the other's horsemen frequently, and won his actions. At last, in a fiercer struggle than unusual, wherein Volusenus, in his desire to cut off Commius in person, had pursued him too persistently with a few followers, while Commius in furious flight had led Volusenus on too far, in his hatred of the Roman he suddenly called on the loyal assistance of his p581men not to leave unpunished the wounds inflicted on himself under pledge of faith,29 then turned his horse, and leaving the rest, recklessly galloped at the Roman commander. All his horsemen did likewise, turning and pursuing our small party. Commius spurred on his horse and brought it abreast of the horse of Quadratus, pointed his lance, and with a mighty thrust pierced him in the middle of the thigh. When their commander was wounded our men at once stood fast, then turned their horses about and drove back the enemy. Upon this a number of the enemy were crushed and wounded by the strength of our onset, and some were ridden down in flight, some cut off. Their leader escaped this fate by the speed of his horse; but the Roman commander, so grievously wounded that he seemed likely to come within peril of his life, was carried back to camp. Commius, however, either because his wrath was appraised or because he had lost a great part of his following, sent deputies to Antonius and gave hostages to guarantee that he would report himself where Antonius should prescribe and submit to his commands. One concession he prayed might be granted to his fears — that he would not come into the sight of any Roman.30 Judging that this demand proceeded from a legitimate fear, Antonius indulged his petition and accepted his hostages.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Lucius Cornelius Balbus, a Spaniard from Gades, received the Roman citizenship from Caesar, served as Caesar's praefectus fabrum (chief engineer) in Spain in 61 B.C., and became afterwards Caesar's chief man of business. He was Consul in 40 B.C., the first foreigner to attain that distinction.

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2 i.e. the de Bello Civili.

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3 48 and 47 B.C.

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4 About £1 13s.

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5 VII.90.

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6 See VII.15.

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7 Accepting Bentley's emendation of MS. coniecit.

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8 aestiva are the "summer quarters" of the legions, and so the summer season of the military year.

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9 i.e. particular expeditions, apart from the main advance.

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10 Here (as in II.19) the main body (three legions) marched in front of the baggage — possibly each legion in three columns — and the fourth legion formed the rearguard. Agmen quadratum means literally "rectangular column," i.e. a line of columns, in order of battle on a broad front, which could readily wheel or form into line of battle (acies). Such column-formations have an exact counterpart in the columns in which infantry of to‑day advance before an attack in line. Cf. IV.14.

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11 Or perhaps instructas velut in acie should be taken together, "formed as in line of battle." In this case the Gauls mistook the agmen quadratum for acies.

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12 "The higher the rampart, the lower the breastwork that would be needed" (Rheinhard); but the Latin seems to indicate that the breastwork was also of exceptional height.

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13 Perhaps these were encounters of archers "across the marsh," while those next mentioned were combats of close contact.

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14 See I.48.

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15 e.g.  in ch. 11, supra.

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16 "On the southern bank of the Aisne, in the angle formed by its confluence with the Oise" (Rice Holmes).

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17 i.e. by allowing themselves to be crowded together: cf. ch. 18.

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18 Literally "wearing the toga," i.e. enfranchised. The Cispadane part of Cisalpine Gaul had received Roman citizenship at the time of the Social War (90‑89 B.C.); the Transpadane part received it in 49 B.C.

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19 Trieste.

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20 VII.7.

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21 Puy d'Issolu.

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22 See ch. 34.

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23 VII.3.

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24 The murders at Cenabum.

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25 i.e. the summer of 50 B.C. Caesar's term of office was to end on March 1, 49 B.C.

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26 i.e. not forced marches.

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27 Or "the last part of the summer season" (the campaign season).

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28 Ch. 23.

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29 See ch. 23.

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30 He had made this resolution after the first encounter.


Thayer's Note:

a Strabo makes the same comment on the Gauls (IV.5) — which the modern French themselves recognize, as shown by the passage from Daninos in my note there.

Page updated: 29 Oct 13