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This webpage reproduces part of
Gallic War

Julius Caesar

Loeb Classical Library

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Gallic War

 p581  Book VIII (chapters 49‑55)

I am aware that Caesar has compiled a separate Commentary for each year; but I have deemed it unnecessary for me to do this, because the ensuing  p583 year, when Lucius Paulus and Gaius Marcellus were consuls,1 contains no operations on a large scale in Gaul. However, to leave no one in ignorance as to the positions of Caesar and his army at that time, I have decided to write a few remarks and add them to this Commentary.

49 During his winter in Belgium Caesar had one definite purpose in view — to keep the states friendly, and to give hope or occasion of armed action to none. There was nothing, in fact, which he desired less than to have the definite necessity of a campaign imposed upon him on the eve of his quitting his province, for fear that, when he was about to lead his army south, he might leave behind a war which all Gaul could readily take up without immediate danger. Accordingly, by addressing the states in terms of honour, by bestowing ample presents upon the chief, by imposing no new burdens, he easily kept Gaul at peace after the exhaustion of so many defeats, under improved conditions of obedience.

50 The winter season over, he varied his usual practice, travelling to Italy with all possible speed in order to address the boroughs and colonies to which he had already commended the candidature of his quartermaster-general, Marcus Antonius, for the priesthood.2 He was glad to use his personal influence in the contest for an intimate friend of his own, whom he had sent on a little before to pursue his candidature; he was no less eager to do so in opposition to the powerful partisanship of the few who desired, by the defeat of Marcus Antonius, to upset the influence of Caesar when he should retire from his province. And  p585 although he had heard on the way that, before he could reach Italy, Antonius had been elected augur, he felt that he had no less legitimate reason for visiting the boroughs and colonies to thank them for affording Antonius their support in so large numbers, and at the same time to commend himself as a candidate for the office he sought for the following year. For his opponents were insolently boasting that Lucius Lentulus and Gaius Marcellus3 had been elected consuls to despoil Caesar of every office and distinction, and that the consulship had been wrested from Servius Galba, though he had been far stronger in influence and votes alike, because he was intimately connected with Caesar by personal friendship and by service as his lieutenant-general.4

51 The arrival of Caesar was welcomed by all the boroughs and colonies with honour and affection beyond belief; for it was his first coming since the glorious campaign against a united Gaul. Nothing was omitted that wit could devise for the decoration of gates, roads, and every place where Caesar was to pass. The whole population, with the children, went forth to meet him, victims were sacrificed everywhere, festal couches, duly spread,5 occupied market-places and temples, so as to anticipate, if possible, the joy of the triumph so long, so very long expected.6 Such was the magnificence shown by the richer folk, such the eagerness of the humbler sort.

52 Having passed rapidly through all the districts of Italian7 Gaul, Caesar returned with all speed to the army at Nemetocenna; he summoned the legions out  p587 of all the cantonments to the country of the Treveri, proceeded thither himself, and there reviewed the army. He put Titus Labienus in charge of Italian Gaul, that it might be won over to give stronger support to his candidature for the consulship. He himself marched as far as he deemed sufficient for change of stations, to keep the troops in health. In the course of his marches he frequently heard that Labienus was being tampered with8 by his enemies, and he was informed that it was the aim of a few plotters to interpose a resolution9 of the Senate and deprive him of some part of the army; nevertheless he believed nothing in regard to Labienus, nor could he be induced to take any action against the resolution of the Senate. For he judged that his cause was like to be easily gained if the votes of the conscript fathers were unrestrained. Indeed, Gaius Curio, tribune of the people,10 had undertaken to defend the cause and the position of Caesar; and he had often promised11 the Senate that, if any person suffered from apprehension of Caesar's arms, and as the armed tyranny of Pompeius was creating considerable alarm in the Forum, he would move that both leaders should give up arms and disband their armies. He held that by this means the state would be free and independent. And this was no mere  p589 promise, but he even tried to secure a decree by a division;12 however, the consuls and the friends of Pompeius interposed to prevent it, and thus frustrated the attempt by delaying action.

53 The testimony of the Senate as a whole was important, and consistent with their previous action. The year before, in the course of an attack on the position of Caesar, Marcellus had brought before the Senate prematurely, and in violation of a law of Pompeius and Crassus,13 a motion touching the provinces of Caesar. Opinions were expressed, and when Marcellus, who coveted for himself any position to be secured from the feeling against Caesar, tried to divide the House, a crowded Senate passed over in support of the general negative.14 These set‑backs did not break the spirit of Caesar's enemies, but they prompted them to find more forcible arguments whereby the Senate would be compelled to approve what they themselves had resolved.

54 Then a decree of the Senate was made that for the Parthian campaign one legion should be sent by Gnaeus Pompeius, a second by Gaius Caesar, and it was clear enough that the two legions were to be withdrawn from one man. For the First Legion, which he had sent to Caesar, as it had been raised from a levy in Caesar's province, Pompeius gave as one of his own. Caesar, though there was not the least doubt about the intention of his opponents, nevertheless sent the legion back to Pompeius, and on his own account ordered the Fifteenth, which he had kept in Nearer Gaul, to be handed over in  p591 accordance with the Senate's decree. In its stead he sent the Thirteenth Legion to Italy, to maintain the garrisons from which the Fifteenth was to be withdrawn. He himself arranged the cantonments for the army: he stationed Gaius Trebonius with three legions in Belgium, Gaius Fabius with the same number he moved into the country of the Aedui; for he thought that the safety of Gaul would best be assured if the Belgae, whose valour was greatest, and the Aedui, whose influence was strongest, were held in check by armies. He himself proceeded to Italy.

55 When he was come thither he learnt that through the action of the consul Gaius Marcellus the two legions sent back by himself, which in accordance with the Senate's decree ought to have been marched off for the Parthian campaign, had been handed over to Gnaeus Pompeius and kept in Italy. This action left no doubt in any man's mind what was afoot against Caesar; still, Caesar determined to submit to anything so long as some hope was left to him of a constitutional settlement rather than an appeal to arms. He pressed . . .

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 50 B.C.

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2 He was a candidate for admission into the College of Augurs, election to which was, since the Lex Domitia of 105 B.C., in the hands of the people.

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3 For the year 49 B.C.

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4 Cf. III.1.

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5 There is an allusion here to Lectisternium, or feast of couches, when the images of the gods were laid on couches (triclinia here) strewn (strata with coverlets, and food was set before them.

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6 Or, reading spectatissimi, "the rejoicing of a triumph so universally admired."

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7 See note on ch. 24 supra.

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8 In the next year he openly joined Pompeius.

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9 A proposal carried in the Senate, but vetoed by a Tribune, was known as senatus auctoritas, as distinguished from senatus consultum. It was often recorded, as a protest of one political party against the other.

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10 In 50 B.C.

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11 The whole sentence is very much involved. Note that Curio, now the spokesman of Caesar in the Senate, questions, in the sentence si . . . laederet, the apprehension caused by Caesar's arms, but he has no doubt, in the sentence quoniam . . . inferrent, of the alarm created by Pompeius' arms. Curio could not promise that both leaders would give up arms; but he did promise that he would move the resolution Discedat uterque ab armis exercitusque dimittat, which is given in oratio obliqua in the text.

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12 A decree of the Senate (senatus consultum) was arrived at either per relationem (i.e. by asking individual Senators for their opinions) or per discessionem ("by a division"). In the latter case, the Senators "divided" to opposite sides of the House: the phrase was Qui hoc censetis, illuc transite, qui alia omnia in hanc partem. Thus alia omnia came to denote the "Noes" on any question.

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13 The law prolonged Caesar's command for five years, from 1 March, 54 B.C., to 1 March, 49.

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14 See note on ch. 52.

Page updated: 29 Oct 13