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This webpage reproduces part of
Gallic War

Julius Caesar

Loeb Classical Library

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Book II

Gallic War

 p45  Book I, end (chapters 30‑53)

30 Upon the conclusion of the Helvetian campaign deputies from well-nigh the whole of Gaul, the chief men of the various states, assembled in Caesar's camp to congratulate him. They perceived, they said, that, although Caesar had by the campaign required satisfaction of the Helvetii for past outrages suffered by the Roman people at their hands, the result had been as beneficial to the land of Gaul as to the Roman people; for the Helvetii had left their homes at a time of exceeding prosperity with the express design of making war upon the whole of Gaul and obtaining empire; they purposed from an ample field to select for their abode the spot which they judged to be the most convenient and the most productive in all Gaul, and to make the rest of the states tributary. The deputies asked that they might be allowed to announce — and that with Caesar's consent — a convention of all Gaul for a certain day, for they had certain petitions which, after general agreement, they wished to ask of him. Permission was given, and they appointed a day for the convention, pledging  p47 themselves by an oath that no man should publish its proceedings save the persons authorised by their general consent.

31 The convention having been held and dissolved, the same chiefs of states as before returned to Caesar with a petition that they might be allowed to discuss with him apart, in private, the question of their own and the general welfare. The petition was granted, and they all threw themselves in tears at Caesar's feet, declaring that they were as anxious and as much concerned to prevent the publication of their utterances as to obtain their desires; for he saw that publication must expose them to the most cruel vengeance. Diviciacus the Aeduan spoke on their behalf. "In all Gaul," he said, "there are two parties; in one of them the Aedui have the primacy, in the other the Arverni. For many years there was a vehement struggle between the two for the dominion; then it came about that the Arverni and the Sequani summoned the Germans to their aid for a price. About fifteen thousand of them crossed the Rhine in the first instance; then, when those fierce barbarians had got a liking for the farmlands, the civilization, and the wealth of the Gauls, more were brought over, and at the present time there are about 120,000 of them in Gaul.

"With them the Aedui and their dependents have repeatedly fought in battle: defeat has brought great disaster, the loss of all our nobility, our senate, and our knights. It is these battles and disasters that have broken the men who by their own valour, and by the courtesy and the friendship of Rome, were formerly paramount in Gaul, and have obliged them to give as hostages to the Sequani the noblest men of the state, and to bind the state by oath not  p49 to require the return of the hostages, not to entreat the assistance of Rome, nor to refuse eternal submission to the sway and sovereignty of the Sequani. I am the one man of all the state of the Aedui upon whom it has not been possible to prevail to take the oath or give his children as hostages. It was for that reason that I fled from the state and came to the Senate at Rome to demand assistance, because I was the only man not bound by oath or hostages. But a worse fate has befallen the victorious Sequani than the conquered Aedui: Ariovistus, king of the Germans, has settled within their borders and seized a third part of their territory, the best in all Gaul; and now he orders them to evacuate another third, because a few months since 24,000 of the Harudes joined him, for whom he had to provide a settlement and a home. In a few years all the natives will have been driven from the borders of Gaul, and all the Germans will have crossed the Rhine; for there can be no comparison between the Gallic and the German territory, none between our usual scale of living and theirs. Having once conquered the forces of the Gauls in battle near Magetobriga, Ariovistus is exercising a proud and cruel tyranny, demanding as hostages the children of the greatest nobles, and perpetrating upon them all the direst forms of torture, if anything be not performed at his nod or at his pleasure. He is a passionate, a reckless barbarian: we can endure his tyrannies no longer. Unless some means of assistance is to be found in Caesar and in the Roman people, all the Gauls must needs do just what the Helvetii have done — emigrate, to seek another habitation, other abodes far from the Germans, and risk any fortune that may befall them. If these remarks of mine be reported to Ariovistus,  p51 I make no doubt that he will inflict the severest punishment on all the hostages in his keeping. You, Caesar, by your own and your army's influence, or by your late victory, or by the name of the Roman people, can prevent the crossing of a larger host of Germans over the Rhine, and defend the whole of Gaul from the outrage of Ariovistus."

32 When Diviciacus had delivered this speech all who were present began with loud weeping to seek assistance from Caesar. He noticed, however, that of all the company the Sequani alone did not act like the rest, but with head downcast stared sullenly upon the ground. He asked them, wondering, what might be the cause thereof. The Sequani made no reply, but continued in the same sullen silence. When repeated questioning could extract not a word from them, Diviciacus the Aeduan made further reply. "The lot of the Sequani," he said, "is more pitiable, more grievous than that of the rest, inasmuch as they alone dare not even in secret make complaint or entreat assistance, dreading the cruelty of Ariovistus as much in his absence as if he were present before them. The rest, for all their suffering, have still a chance of escape; but the Sequani, who have admitted Ariovistus within their borders, and whose towns are all in his power, must needs endure any and every torture."

33 When he had learnt this Caesar comforted the Gauls with his words, promising that he would concern himself with this matter: he had, he said, great hope that by his good offices and his authority he would induce Ariovistus to put a stop to his outrages. With this speech he dissolved the convention. And straightway many considerations induced him to suppose that he must take thought  p53 and action in the matter. In the first place, he could see that the Aedui, often hailed by the Senate as brethren and kinsmen, were fast bound in slavery and subjection to the Germans, and he was aware that their hostages were with Ariovistus and the Sequani. This, considering the greatness of the Roman empire, he deemed to be an utter disgrace to himself and to the state. Next, he could see that the Germans were becoming gradually accustomed to cross over the Rhine, and that the arrival of a great host of them in Gaul was dangerous for the Roman people. Nor did he suppose that barbarians so fierce would stop short after seizing the whole of Gaul; but rather, like the Cimbri and Teutoni before them, they would break forth into the Province, and push on thence into Italy, especially as there was but the Rhone to separate the Sequani from the Roman Province. All this, he felt, must be faced without a moment's delay. As for Ariovistus himself, he had assumed such airs, such arrogance, that he seemed insufferable.

34 He resolved, therefore, to send deputies to Ariovistus to request of him the choice of some half‑way station between them for a parley, as it was his desire to discuss with him matters of state and of the highest importance to each of them. To the deputation Ariovistus made reply that if he had had need of aught from Caesar, he would have come to him, and if Caesar desired aught of him, he ought to come to him. Moreover, he did not venture without an army to come into those parts of Gaul which Caesar was occupying, and he could not concentrate his army without great exertion in the matter of supply. And he found himself wondering what business either Caesar or the Roman people might  p55 have in that Gaul which he had made his own by conquest in war.

35 When this reply had been brought back to Caesar, he sent deputies again to him with the following message: Forasmuch as, after great kindness of treatment from Caesar himself and from the Roman people (for it was in Caesar's year of consul­ship​1 that he had been saluted as king and friend by the Senate), he expressed his thanks to Caesar and the Roman people by reluctance to accept the invitation to come to a parley and by thinking it needless to say or learn anything as touching their mutual concerns, Caesar's demand of him was, first, that he should not bring any further host of men across the Rhine into Gaul; second, that he should restore the hostages he held from the Aedui and grant the Sequani entire freedom to restore to the Aedui with his full consent the hostages they held; further, that he should not annoy the Aedui by outrage nor make war upon them or their allies. If he did as requested, Caesar and the Roman people would maintain a lasting kindness and friendship towards him. If Caesar's request were not granted, then, forasmuch as in the consul­ship​2 of Marcus Messalla and Marcus Piso the Senate had decided that the governor of the Province of Gaul should protect, as far as he could do so with advantage to the state, the Aedui and the other friends of the Roman people, Caesar would not disregard the outrages suffered by the Aedui.

36 To this Ariovistus replied as follows: It was the right of war that conquerors dictated as they pleased to the conquered; and the Roman people also were accustomed to dictate to those whom they conquered,  p57 not according to the order of a third party, but according to their own choice. If he, for his part, did not ordain how the Roman people should exercise their own right, he ought not to be hindered by the Roman people in the enjoyment of his own right. The Aedui, having risked the fortune of war and having been overcome in a conflict of arms, had been made tributary to himself. Caesar was doing him a serious injury, for his advance was damaging his revenues. He would not restore their hostages to the Aedui, nor would he make war on them nor on their allies without cause, if they stood to their agreement and paid tribute yearly; if not, they would find it of no assistance whatever to be called "Brethren of the Roman people." As for Caesar's declaration that he would not disregard outrages suffered by the Aedui, no one had fought with Ariovistus save to his own destruction. He might join issue when he pleased: he would learn what invincible Germans, highly trained in arms, who in a period of fourteen years had never been beneath a roof, could accomplish by their valour.

37 At the same hour in which this message was brought back to Caesar, deputies arrived from the Aedui and the Treveri. The Aedui came to complain that the Harudes, who had lately been brought over into Gaul, were devastating their borders, and that they themselves had not been able to purchase peace from Ariovistus even by the delivery of hostages. The Treveri reported that one hundred cantons of the Suebi had settled on the banks of the Rhine, and were attempting to cross the river, under the command of two brothers, Nasua and Cimberius. At this Caesar was exceedingly disquieted, and determined that he must make speed,  p59 for fear that, if the new company of Suebi joined the old forces of Ariovistus, resistance might be more difficult. Therefore he secured his cornº-supply with all possible speed, and pushed on with forced marches to meet Ariovistus.

38 He had advanced a three days' march when news was brought to him that Ariovistus with all his forces was pushing on to seize Vesontio (Besançon), the largest town of the Sequani, and had already advanced a three days' march from his own borders. Caesar considered that a great effort on his part was needed to prevent this occurrence. For there was in that town an abundant supply of all things needful for war, and the place was so well fortified by Nature as to afford great facilities for the conduct of a campaign. The river Dubis (Doubs), with a circuit that might have been traced by compasses, surrounds well-nigh the whole town: the remaining space of not more than sixteen hundred feet, where the river breaks off, is closed in by a height of great eminence, so placed that its foundations touch the river-bank on either side. This height is surrounded by a wall to form a citadel and join it with the town. It was to this place that Caesar pushed on with forced marches by night and day, and, seizing the town, posted a garrison in it.

39 During a few days' halt near Vesontio for the provision of corn and other supplies, a panic arose from inquiries made by our troops and remarks uttered by Gauls and traders, who affirmed that the Germans were men of a mighty frame and an incredible valour and skill at arms; for they themselves (so they said) at meetings with the Germans had often been unable even to endure their look and the keenness of their eyes. So great was the panic, and  p61 so suddenly did it seize upon all the army, that it affected in serious fashion the intelligence and the courage of all ranks. It began first with the tribunes, the contingent-commanders,​3 and the others who had followed Caesar from Rome to court his friendship, without any great experience in warfare. Advancing various reasons which, according to their own statement, obliged them to depart, some sought his permission to leave; some were compelled by very shame to stay, to avoid the suspicion of cowardice. They were unable to disguise their looks, or even at times to restrain their tears; they hid in their tents to complain of their own fate, or to lament in company with their friends the common danger. Everywhere throughout the camp there was signing of wills. By the cowardly utterances of such as these even men who had long experience in the field, soldiers, centurions, and cavalry commanders, were gradually affected. Those of them who desired to be thought less timid would declare that they were not afraid of the enemy, but feared the narrow defiles and the vast forests which lay between themselves and Ariovistus, or a possible failure of proper transport for the corn-supply. Some had even gone so far as to declare to Caesar that when he gave the order for camp to be shifted and standards advanced the soldiers would not obey, and by reason of cowardice would not move forward.

40 Remarking this, he convened a council of war, and summoned thereto the centurions of all grades. Then indignantly he reprimanded them, first and foremost because they thought it their business to ask or to consider in which direction or with what purpose they were being led. "Ariovistus," he said,  p63 "in my own consul­ship sought most eagerly the friendship of the Roman people. Why should anyone conclude that he intends so recklessly to depart from his duty? For myself, I am persuaded that, when my demands are made known, and the fairness of my terms understood, Ariovistus will not reject the goodwill of myself or the Roman people. Even if, in a fit of rage and madness, he makes war, what, pray, have you to fear? Why do you despair of your own courage or of my competence? We have made trial of this foe in the time of our fathers, on the occasion when, in the defeat of the Cimbri​4 and Teutoni​5 by Gaius Marius, the army was deemed to have deserved no less praise than the commander himself. We have made further trial of late in Italy in the slave revolt,​6 and yet the slaves had the practice and training which they had learnt from us to give them some measure of support. You may judge from this what profit there is in a good courage, for the very men whom you had feared without cause during a long time, when they had no arms, you subsequently subdued, though they had taken up arms and won victories. Finally, these are the selfsame men with whom the Helvetii have had frequent encounters, and they have often subdued them, not only in Helvetian territory but also in Germany; yet the Helvetii have not proved a match for our army. If there be any who are concerned at the defeat and flight of the Gauls, they can discover for the asking that when the Gauls were worn out by the length of the campaign Ariovistus, who had kept himself for many months within his camp in the marshes, without giving a chance of encounter, attacked them suddenly when they had at last dispersed in despair of a battle, and conquered them rather by skill and  p65 stratagem than by courage. Even Ariovistus himself does not expect that our own armies can be caught by tactics for which there was a chance against unskilled barbarians. Those persons who ascribe their own cowardice to a pretended anxiety for the corn-supply or to the defiles on the route are guilty of presumption, for they appear either to despair of the commander's doing his duty or to instruct him in it. These matters are my own concern; corn is being supplied by the Sequani, the Leuci, the Lingones, and the corn-crops in the fields are already ripe; of the route you yourselves will shortly be able to judge. As for the statement that the soldiers will not obey orders nor move forward, I am not in the least concerned by that; in any cases where an army has not obeyed its general, either fortune has failed because of some actual blunder, or else some crime shall be discovered and a charge of avarice has been brought home. My own blamelessness has been clearly seen throughout my life, my good fortune in the Helvetian campaign. Accordingly I intend to execute at once what I might have put off to a more distant day, and to break camp in the fourth watch of this next night, to the intent that I may perceive at once whether honour and duty, or cowardice, prevail in your minds. Even if no one else follows, I shall march with the Tenth Legion alone; I have no doubt of its allegiance, and it will furnish the commander-in‑chief's escort." Caesar had shown special favour to this legion, and he placed the greatest reliance in it because of its courage.

41 By the delivery of this speech the spirit of all ranks was changed in a remarkable fashion; the greatest keenness and eagerness for active service was engendered, and the Tenth Legion was the first  p67 to express thanks to Caesar, through its tribunes, for the excellent opinion he had formed of it, and to affirm its complete readiness for active service. Then the remaining legions moved their tribunes and senior centurions to give satisfactory explanation to Caesar that they had felt neither doubt nor panic, and had regarded it as the commander's business, not their own, to decide the plan of campaign. Their explanation was accepted, and through Diviciacus (the one person in whom Caesar had absolute confidence) a route was found out to lead the army through open country, by a detour of more than fifty miles. In the fourth watch, as Caesar had said, the march began. On the seventh day of continuous marching the scouts reported that the forces of Ariovistus were four-and‑twenty miles away from our own.

42 When he learnt of Caesar's approach Ariovistus sent deputies to him to announce that he was now ready to do what Caesar had before demanded as touching a parley, because he had come nearer, and Ariovistus believed that he could comply without risk. Caesar did not reject the proposal, and he was inclined to think that Ariovistus was at length returning to a proper frame of mind, inasmuch as of his own motion he proffered what he had previously refused on request. Moreover, he began to have a good hope that, in consideration of the signal benefits conferred upon him by Caesar and the Roman people, Ariovistus would abandon his obstinacy when he knew Caesar's demands. A day — the fifth after that — was appointed for the parley. Meanwhile there was continual sending of deputies to and fro between them; and Ariovistus demanded that Caesar should bring no infantry with him to the  p69 parley, as he was afraid Caesar might surround him by treachery; let each party, therefore, come with an escort of horse; otherwise he would not come at all. Caesar did not wish parley to be broken off upon an excuse thus interposed; at the same time he could not venture to entrust his personal safety to Gallic horse. He decided, therefore, that the best plan was to take the horses from Gallic troopers and mount upon them soldiers of the Tenth Legion, in which he had absolute confidence; thus, if there were need of action, he would have an escort of the truest friends he could find. As the order was being carried out, one of the soldiers of the Tenth Legion remarked with some wit that Caesar was doing better than his promise; for he had promised to treat the Tenth Legion as the commander-in‑chief's escort, and he was making new "cavalry"​7 of them.

43 There was a large plain, and in it a mound of earth of considerable size. The place was about equally distant from the camps of Caesar and of Ariovistus. Thither, as agreed, they came for the parley. Caesar stationed the legion which he had brought on horseback two hundred paces from the mound. The horsemen of Ariovistus halted at an equal distance. Ariovistus demanded that they should parley on horseback, and that each should bring with him to the parley ten men besides himself. When they arrived at the spot Caesar began his speech by relating the benefits conferred upon Ariovistus by himself and by the Senate; the Senate had called him king and friend, and had sent gifts  p71 with a most lavish hand. This privilege, as he pointed out, had fallen to the lot of but few, and was usually granted in consideration of great personal services. Ariovistus, though he had no right to audience of the Senate, and no just cause of claim, had obtained the rewards in question by the favour and generosity of Caesar and of the Senate. He proceeded to show how long-established and how just were the reasons for a close relation­ship between Rome and the Aedui; the frequency and the distinction of the Senate's decrees in respect of them; the manner in which, even before they had sought the friendship of Rome, the Aedui had always held the primacy of all Gaul. It was the tradition of the Roman people to desire that its allies and friends should not only lose none of their possessions, but should enjoy increase of influence, dignity, and distinction; on the other hand, who, he asked, could endure that they should be despoiled of what they had brought with them to the friendship of the Roman people? He then made the same demands as those which he had given in his instructions to the deputies — that is to say, Ariovistus must not make war on the Aedui or on their allies; he must restore the hostages; and if he could not send back home any part of the Germans, at any rate he must not suffer any more to cross the Rhine.

44 To the demands of Caesar Ariovistus replied in brief, but he dilated at length upon his own good qualities. He had crossed the Rhine, he said, not of his own desire, but upon the request and summons of the Gauls; not without great hope of great rewards had he left home and kindred; the settlements he occupied in Gaul were granted by the natives, the hostages had been given with the  p73 consent of the natives; the tribute he took was by right of war, as customarily enforced by conquerors upon conquered. He had not made war upon the Gauls, but they upon him; all the states of Gaul had come to attack him and had set up their camp against him; all their forces had been beaten and overcome by him in a single action. If they wished to try the issue again, he was prepared to fight it out again; if they wished to enjoy peace, it was unjust to refuse the payment of tribute which of their own consent they had paid hitherto. The friendship of the Roman people ought to be a distinction and a security to him, not a hindrance; and he had sought it with that hope. If through the agency of the Roman people the tribute were to be remitted and the surrendered persons withdrawn, he would refuse the friendship of the Roman people no less heartily than he had sought it. As for the host of Germans that he was bringing over into Gaul, his object was to protect himself, not to attack Gaul; and the proof thereof was that he had not come except upon request, and that his warfare had been defensive, not offensive. He had come into Gaul before the Roman people. Never heretofore had an army of the Roman people left the borders of the Province of Gaul. What did Caesar mean? Why did he come into his sphere of occupation? This was his province of Gaul, as the other was the Roman. As it was not right to give way to him, if he made an attack on Roman territory, so likewise the Romans were unjust in obstructing him in his own jurisdiction. As for Caesar's statement that the Aedui were called "brothers," Ariovistus was not such a barbarian, not so ignorant of affairs as not to know that neither in the last campaign against the  p75 Allobroges had the Aedui rendered assistance to the Romans, nor in the disputes of the Aedui with himself and the Sequani had they enjoyed the assistance of the Roman people. He was bound to suspect, in spite of pretended friendship, that Caesar had an army in Gaul for the purpose of crushing him. Unless, therefore, Caesar departed and withdrew his army from this locality, he would regard him, not as a friend, but as an enemy. And if he put Caesar to death, he would gratify many nobles and leaders of the Roman people: this he knew for certain from themselves, by the messengers sent on behalf of all whose favour and friendship he could purchase by Caesar's death. If, however, Caesar departed and resigned to him the uninterrupted occupation of Gaul, he would recompense him by a great reward, and would, without any exertion or risk on his part, execute any campaigns he might wish to be carried out.

45 Caesar spoke at length for the purpose of showing why he could not give up the task in hand. His own practice, he said, and the practice of the Roman people did not suffer the abandonment of allies who had deserved so well, nor did he admit that Gaul belonged to Ariovistus rather than to the Roman people. The Arverni and the Ruteni had been subdued in a campaign by Quintus Fabius Maximus:​8 the Roman people had pardoned them, and had not formed them into a province nor imposed a tribute. If priority of time was to be the standard, then the sovereignty of the Roman people in Gaul had complete justification; if the decision of the Senate was to be observed, Gaul should be free, for after conquest of the country the Senate  p77 had willed that it should continue to observe its own laws.

46 During the progress of the parley Caesar was informed that the horsemen of Ariovistus were approaching nearer the mound, riding up to our troops, and discharging stones and darts at them. Caesar made an end of speaking, and, withdrawing to his own men, commanded them not to discharge a single dart against the enemy in reply. For, although he could see that a fight between the chosen legion and the horsemen would involve no danger, still he did not think proper, by so beating the enemy, to make possible the report that after pledge given they had been surrounded by him during a parley. As soon as the common soldiers learnt how arrogantly at the parley Ariovistus had forbidden all Gaul to the Romans, how his horsemen had attacked our troops, and how this action had broken off the parley, the army was inspired with far greater eagerness and enthusiasm for battle.

47 Two days afterwards Ariovistus sent deputies to Caesar. He desired, he said, to discuss with him the matters which they had begun to discuss together but had not settled. Let him therefore again appoint a day for a parley, or, if he did not so wish, let him send to him one of his staff. Caesar thought there was no occasion for a parley, the more so as on the previous day the Germans could not be restrained from discharging darts upon our men. He thought it would be very dangerous to send one of his staff to him and so to expose a man to the ferocious Germans. The best plan seemed to be to send to him Gaius Valerius Procillus, son of Gaius Valerius Caburus. He was a young man of exemplary courage and courtesy, and his father had been  p79 presented with the citizen­ship by Gaius Valerius Flaccus. Caesar selected him because of his fidelity and his knowledge of the Gallic tongue (which from long practice Ariovistus could now use freely), and also because the Germans had in his case no reason for outrage; and with him he chose Marcus Mettius, who enjoyed the intimacy of Ariovistus. He gave them instructions that they should ascertain and bring back to him the views of Ariovistus. But when Ariovistus saw them near him in his camp he called aloud in the presence of his army, "Why come you to me? To spy?" When they tried to speak he prevented them and flung them into chains.

48 On the same day he advanced and pitched his camp under a hill-side six miles from Caesar's. The next day he led his forces past the camp of Caesar, and formed camp two miles beyond him, for the purpose of cutting Caesar off from the corn and supplies that were to be brought up from the borders of the Sequani and the Aedui. For five days in succession Caesar brought his own forces out in front of camp and kept them formed in line of battle, so that if Ariovistus wished to engage he might not lack the chance. On all these days Ariovistus kept his army in camp, but engaged daily in a cavalry encounter. The kind of fighting in which the Germans had trained themselves was as follows. There were six thousand horsemen, and as many footmen, as swift as they were brave, who had been chosen out of the whole force, one by each horseman for his personal protection. With them they worked in encounters; on them the horseman would retire, and they would concentrate speedily if any serious difficulty arose; they would form  p81 round any trooper who fell from his horse severely wounded; and if it was necessary to advance farther in some direction or to retire more rapidly, their training made them so speedy that they could support themselves by the manes of the horses and keep up their pace.

49 When Caesar observed that Ariovistus kept to his camp, to prevent further interruption of supplies he chose a suitable spot for a camp beyond that in which the Germans had pitched and about six hundred paces distant. Thither he marched in triple-line formation. The first and second line he ordered to keep under arms, the third to entrench a camp. The spot, as has been said, was about six hundred paces away from the enemy. Towards it Ariovistus sent some sixteen thousand light-armed troops with all the horse, as a force to frighten our men and to prevent their entrenching work. None the less Caesar kept to his previous decision, ordering two lines to drive back the enemy, the third to complete the work. When the camp was entrenched he left two legions there and a part of the auxiliaries; the remaining four he brought back to the larger camp.

50 The next day, in accordance with his practice, Caesar moved out his forces from both camps, and, advancing a little from the larger camp, he formed line to give the enemy a chance of battle. Perceiving that they did not even come forth, he brought his army back to camp about noon. Then at last Ariovistus sent a part of his own forces to attack the lesser camp, and both sides fought in spirited fashion till eventide. At sunset, when many blows had been dealt and taken, Ariovistus led his forces back to camp. By questioning the prisoners why Ariovistus did not fight a decisive action, Caesar found out the  p83 reason. It was a custom among the Germans that their matrons should declare by lots​9 and divinations whether it was expedient or not to engage, and the matrons declared that heaven forbade the Germans to win a victory, if they fought an action before the new moon.

51 On the next day Caesar left what he deemed a sufficient garrison for each camp; in front of the lesser camp, in full view of the enemy, he posted all the allied troops, intending to use them for a demonstration, because the total strength of his legionary troops was none too great in view of the enemy's numbers. He himself, with triple line deployed, advanced right up to the enemy's camp. Then at last, compelled by necessity, the Germans led their own forces out of camp and posted them at equal intervals according to their tribes, Harudes, Marcomani, Triboces, Vangiones, Nemetes, Sedusii, Suebi; and their whole line they set about with wagons and carts, to leave no hope in flight. Upon these they set their women, who with tears and outstretched hands entreated the men, as they marched out to fight, not to deliver them into Roman slavery.

52 Caesar put the lieutenant-generals and the quartermaster-general10 each in command of a legion, that every man might have their witness of his valour. He himself took station on the right wing, having noticed that the corresponding division of the enemy was the least steady, and joined battle. Our troops attacked the enemy so fiercely when the signal was given, and the enemy dashed forward so suddenly and swiftly,  p85 that there was no time to discharge javelins upon them. So javelins were thrown aside, and it was a sword-fight at close quarters. But the Germans, according to their custom, speedily formed mass, and received the sword-attack. Not a few of our soldiers were found brave enough to leap on to the masses of the enemy, tear the shields from their hands, and deal a wound from above. The left wing of the enemy's line was beaten and put to flight, but their right wing, by sheer weight of numbers, was pressing our line hard. Young Publius Crassus, commanding our cavalry, noticed this, and as he could move more freely than the officers who were occupied in and about the line of battle, he sent the third line in support of our struggling troops.

53 So the battle was restored, and all the enemy turned and ran: nor did they cease in their flight until they reached the river Rhine, some five​11 miles from that spot. There a very few, trusting to their strength, set themselves to swim across, or discovered boats and so won safety. Among these was Ariovistus, who found a skiff moored to the bank and escaped therein; all the rest of our cavalry caught and slew. There were two wives of Ariovistus, one of Suebian nationality, whom he had brought with him from home; the other a woman of Noricum, sister to King Voccio, and sent by him to be married to Ariovistus in Gaul. Both wives perished in the rout; of his two daughters one was slain, and the other taken prisoner. Gaius Valerius Procillus, bound with a threefold chain, was being dragged by his keepers in the rout, when he chanced to meet Caesar himself pursuing the enemy with the cavalry.  p87 And indeed it brought Caesar no less pleasure than the victory itself, to see a most distinguished member of the Province of Gaul, his own close friend and guest, snatched from the hands of the enemy and restored to himself; and to feel that fortune had in no wise lessened, by the loss of his friend, his own great pleasure and satisfaction. Procillus said that in his own presence the lots had been thrice consulted to see whether he should be burnt to death at once or saved for another time: to the favour of the lots he owed his safety. Marcus Mettius also was discovered and brought back to Caesar.

54 When the news of this battle was carried across the Rhine, the Suebi who had come to the banks of the river began to return homewards; and when the tribes which dwell next to the Rhine perceived their panic, they pursued and slew a great number of them. Two capital campaigns were thus finished in a single summer, and Caesar therefore withdrew his army a little earlier than the season required into winter cantonments among the Sequani, leaving Labienus in command thereof, while he himself set off for Hither Gaul to hold the assizes.12

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 59 B.C.

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2 61 B.C.

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3 See Appendix A.

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4 101 B.C.

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5 102 B.C.

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6 73‑71 B.C.

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7 There is a certain irony in this. From the time of Marius onwards, the cavalry attached to a legion were usually foreign auxiliaries; so to transfer (rescribere) legionaries to the cavalry was not exactly a compliment. But there is probably an allusion also to the cavalry of earlier days, which was formed of noble and wealthy citizens, and to the Knights (equites), who at this time formed an influential party in Roman politics.

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8 121 B.C.

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9 The sortes were pieces of wood marked with signs: see ch. 53 infra, and cf. Tacitus, Germania 10, and for these prophetic women Germania 8; Histories IV.61.

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10 See Appendix A. Here the quaestor commanded one legion, legati the other five.

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11 Dr. Rice Holmes suggests XV for V: or a mistake of the river Ill for the Rhine.

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12 A province was divided into districts (conventus), and for the administration of justice the governor visited these districts (conventus agere) at least once during his yearly office.

Page updated: 26 Oct 18