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This webpage reproduces part of
The Spanish War

by an unknown author, attached to the name of
Julius Caesar

Loeb Classical Library
1955

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!

Caesar
Spanish War

p397 Appendix B

Caesar's Withdrawal from Corduba
(Spanish War chapter 6)

Many corruptions in the MSS. text of the earlier part of this chapter make its interpretation very difficult. As the text I have adopted varies considerably both from the MSS. tradition and from the reading given by Klotz, all three readings are here set out in full.

(i) The MSS. Reading

id cum animadverteret adversarios minime velle, quos quoniam a avia retraxerat, ut in aequum deduceret, copiis flumine traductis noctu iubet ignis fieri magnos: ita firmissimum eius praesidium Ateguam proficiscitur. id cum Pompeius ex perfugis rescisset, qua die facultatem et angustias, carra complura multosque lanistas retraxit et ad Cordubam se recepit. Caesar munitionibus antequam (or antiquas) oppugnare et bracchia circumducere coepit. cui de Pompeio cum nuntius esset allatus eo die proficiscitur.

(ii) Klotz's Reading

(ch. 5) id cum animadverteret adversarios minime velle . . . .

(ch. 6) Quos quoniam ab Ulia retraxerat, ut in aequum deduceret, copiis flumine traductis noctu iubet ignes fieri magnos. ita firmissimum eius praesidium Ateguam proficiscitur. id cum Pompeius ex perfugis rescisset, cum die facultatem <liberam sequendi nactus inter montes> et angustias p398carra complura mulosque onustos retraxit et ad Cordubam se recepit. Caesar munitionibus Ateguam oppugnare et brachia circumducere coepit. cuius re Pompeio cum nuntius esset adlatus, eo die proficiscitur.

(iii) My Own Reading

Id cum animadverteret adversarios minime velle, quo eos quomodo ab Ulia retraxerat [ut] in aequum deduceret, copiis flumine traductis noctu iubet ignis fieri magnos: ita firmissimum eius praesidium Ateguam proficiscitur. Id cum Pompeius ex perfugis rescisset, qua die facultatem <nactus est, relinquens montis> et angustias, carra complura mulosque onustos retraxit et ad Cordubam se recepit. Caesar munitionibus Ateguam oppugnare et bracchia circumducere coepit. Cui de Pompeio cum nuntius esset allatus eo die proficisci[tur],

The two most puzzling problems involved in this narrative seem to me to be these:—

(a) The Purpose and Position of the Fires

Holmes thought that they were left burning in Caesar's camps at Corduba. But though that would doubtless have been the orthodox manoeuvre, the author has expressed himself very ambiguously, if that was his meaning. What he appears to say is that the order to light the fires was given after the crossing of the river. To a rear party perhaps? Yet one would have expected the decoy fires to have been most useful in misleading the enemy, had they been alight during, not after, the crossing of the river. The alternative occurs to me that they were lit somewhere south of the river, and in the wrong direction, so as to bring Pompey down from the high ground, but none the less mislead him as to Caesar's route. Klotz merely describes the fires as 'to cover the departure.'

p399 (b) How much did Pompey know of Caesar's plans, and why did he at first follow Caesar and then retire to Corduba?

Holmes took id in the phrase id cum Pompeius ex perfugis rescisset to refer to Caesar's destination, viz. Ategua, and not (as Stoffel, whom Klotz appears to follow) to the fact that Caesar had now left Corduba. In this I certainly think that Holmes is right; for even if the decoy fires were lit — as Holmes thinks — in Caesar's camps at Corduba, it seems almost incredible that Caesar's army should have crossed the river entirely unobserved by Pompey's outposts. Moreover, if the fires were lit subsequently, south of the river, it can fairly be assumed that Caesar never hoped to keep his departure secret, but only his destination; and that the latter was only now disclosed by deserters.

I assume that Pompey followed Caesar with the object of harassing his convoy, but without risking a general engagement. That he met with some success seems to be implied by the words carra complura . . . retraxit; for I accept Klotz's explanation that these were captured from Caesar's convoy. But the reason which Klotz suggests for Pompey's withdrawal to Corduba, viz. 'to protect his troops from the inclemency of the weather,' hardly seems adequate; it is more likely, I think, that Pompey had to return to Corduba to revictual his forces, since he was not sure whether his communications with Ategua — well stocked with corn,º according to the account given by Dio Cassius — were still open.

The following points where my readings vary from those of Klotz are perhaps of less importance for the general interpretation of the narrative:—

(1) In support of his reading facultatem liberam sequendi nactus inter montes et angustias Klotz remarks that the heights which surround the narrow places of the Guadajos valley are about 100 metres above the valley. On the other hand, my reading (based on Mommsen's conjecture) facultatem nactus est, relinquens p400montis et angustias is, geographically speaking, perhaps no less possible, and seems more appropriate in view of Caesar's object of bringing Pompey down to the plain.

(2) As between Klotz's cuius re Pompeio cum nuntius esset adlatus, eo die proficiscitur and my cui de Pompeio cum nuntius esset allatus eo die proficisci, the latter admits a more emphatic interpretation of eo die which, to my mind, gives greater point to the following words; namely, that though Caesar was advised of the actual day when Pompey left Corduba, and though he had already made adequate dispositions against any surprise attack, yet a thick morning mist upset his calculations.


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Page updated: 7 Feb 13