First page of De bello Gallico, from the edition of Sweynheym and Pannartz, Rome, 1469
|Author||Julius Caesar, Aulus Hirtius (VIII)|
|Subject||History, ethnography, military history|
|Followed by||Commentarii de Bello Civili|
|Part of a series on the|
|Military of ancient Rome|
Commentāriī dē Bellō Gallicō (English: Commentaries on the Gallic War ), also Bellum Gallicum (English: Gallic War), is Julius Caesar's firsthand account of the Gallic Wars, written as a third-person narrative. In it Caesar describes the battles and intrigues that took place in the nine years he spent fighting the Germanic peoples and Celtic peoples in Gaul that opposed Roman conquest.
The "Gaul" that Caesar refers to is ambiguous, as the term had various connotations in Roman writing and discourse during Caesar's time. Generally, Gaul included all of the regions that Romans had not conquered or administered or which were primarily inhabited by Celts; except for the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis (modern-day Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon), which had already been conquered in Caesar's time, therefore encompassing the rest of modern France, Belgium, Western Germany, and parts of Switzerland. As the Roman Republic made inroads deeper into Celtic territory and conquered more land, the definition of "Gaul" shifted. Concurrently, "Gaul" was also used in common parlance as a synonym for "uncouth" or "unsophisticated" as Romans saw Celtic peoples as uncivilized compared with themselves.
The work has been a mainstay in Latin instruction because of its simple, direct prose. It begins with the frequently quoted phrase "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres", meaning "Gaul is a whole divided into three parts". 1 to Book 8, varying in size from approximately 5,000 to 15,000 words. Book 8 was written by Aulus Hirtius, after Caesar's death.The full work is split into eight sections, Book
The Latin title, Commentaries on the Gallic War, is often retained in English translations of the book, and the title is also translated to About the Gallic War, Of the Gallic War, On the Gallic War, The Conquest of Gaul, and The Gallic War.
The victories in Gaul won by Caesar had increased the alarm and hostility of his enemies at Rome, and his aristocratic enemies, the boni, were spreading rumors about his intentions once he returned from Gaul. The boni intended to prosecute Caesar for abuse of his authority upon his return, when he would lay down his imperium. Such prosecution would not only see Caesar stripped of his wealth and citizenship, but also negate all of the laws he enacted during his term as Consul and his dispositions as pro-consul of Gaul. To defend himself against these threats, Caesar knew he needed the support of the plebeians, particularly the Tribunes of the Plebs, on whom he chiefly relied for help in carrying out his agenda. The Commentaries were an effort by Caesar to directly communicate with the plebeians – thereby circumventing the usual channels of communication that passed through the Senate – to propagandize his activities as efforts to increase the glory and influence of Rome. By winning the support of the people, Caesar sought to make himself unassailable from the boni.
In the Commentarii de Bello Gallico, Caesar mentions several leaders of the Gallic tribes. Among these, Diviciacus and Vercingetorix are notable for their contributions to the Gauls during war.
Book 1 and Book 6 detail the importance of Diviciacus, a leader of the Haedui (Aedui), which lies mainly in the friendly relationship between Caesar and Diviciacus quod ex aliis ei maximam fidem habebat ("the one person in whom Caesar had absolute confidence") (I, 41). His brother, Dumnorix had committed several acts against the Romans because he wanted to become king quod eorum adventu potentia eius deminuta et Diviciacus frater in antiquum locum gratiae atque honoris sit restitutus and summam in spem per Helvetios regni obtinendi venire (I, 41); thus Caesar was able to make his alliance with Diviciacus even stronger by sparing Dumnorix from punishment while also forcing Diviciacus to control his own brother. Diviciacus had, in tears, begged Caesar to spare the life of his brother, and Caesar saw an opportunity to not only fix his major problem with Dumnorix, but also to strengthen the relationship between Rome and one of its small allies. Another major action taken by Diviciacus was his imploring of Caesar to take action against the Germans and their leader, Ariovistus. His fear of Ariovistus and the general outcry from the Gallic people led Caesar to launch a campaign against the Germans, even though they had been considered friends of the Republic.
Vercingetorix, leader of the Arverni, united the Gallic tribes against Caesar during the winter of 53–52 BC. This appears in Book VII, chapters 1–13. Vercingetorix's father, Celtillus, was killed after attempting to seize power amongst the Arverni; for that reason, Vercingetorix was a social outcast and had much to gain from a rebellion. When it was clear that Caesar had defeated the Gallic rebellion, Vercingetorix offered to sacrifice himself, and put himself at the mercy of Caesar, in order to ensure that his kinsmen were spared. After the defeat, Vercingetorix was brought to Rome and imprisoned for six years before being brought out to adorn Caesar's triumph over Gaul and then publicly executed. Today, Vercingetorix is seen in the same light as others who opposed Roman conquest; he is now considered a national hero in France and a model patriot.[ citation needed ]
In De Bello Gallico 6.21–28, Julius Caesar provides his audience with a picture of Germanic lifestyle and culture. He depicts the Germans as primitive hunter gatherers with diets mostly consisting of meat and dairy products who only celebrate earthly gods such as the sun, fire, and the moon (6.21–22). German women reportedly wear small cloaks of deer hides and bathe in the river naked with their fellow men, yet their culture celebrates men who abstain from sex for as long as possible (6.21). Caesar concludes in chapters 25–28 by describing the Germans living in the almost-mythological Hercynian forest full of oxen with horns in the middle of their foreheads, elks without joints or ligatures, and uri who kill every man they come across.
However, the distinguishing characteristic of the Germans for Caesar, as described in chapters 23 and 24, is their warring nature, which they believe is a sign of true valour (hoc proprium virtutis existimant, 6.23). The Germans have no neighbors, because they have driven everyone out from their surrounding territory (civitatibus maxima laus est quam latissime circum se vastatis finibus solitudines habere, 6.23). Their greatest political power resides in the wartime magistrates, who have power over life and death (vitae necisque habeant potestatem, 6.23). While Caesar certainly respects the warring instincts of the Germans,he wants his readers to see that their cultures are simply too barbaric, especially when contrasted with the high-class Gallic Druids described at the beginning of chapter six. For example, Caesar writes that robberies committed outside of the state are legalized in hopes of teaching young people discipline and caution, an idea nearly offensive to the judicial practices of the Romans (ea iuventutis exercendae ac desidiae minuendae causa fieri praedicant, 6.23). Caesar's generalizations, alongside the writings of Tacitus, form the barbaric identity of the Germans for the ancient world. The name "Germani" is even of Roman origins, showing how the identity of the Germans is tilted by Roman perceptions and prejudices.
Caesar's account of the Druids and the "superstitions" of the Gallic nations are documented in book six chapters 13, 14 and 16–18 in De Bello Gallico. In chapter 13 he mentions the importance of Druids in the culture and social structure of Gaul at the time of his conquest. Chapter 14 addresses the education of the Druids and the high social standing that comes with their position. He first comments on the role of sacrificial practices in their daily lives in chapter 16. Caesar highlights the sacrificial practices of the Druids containing innocent people and the large sacrificial ceremony where hundreds of people were burnt alive at one time to protect the whole from famine, plague, and war (DBG 6.16). Chapter 17 and 18 focuses on the divinities the Gauls believed in and Dis, the god which they claim they were descended from. This account of the Druids highlights Caesar's interest in the order and importance of the Druids in Gaul.
Caesar spent a great amount of time in Gaul and his book is one of the best preserved accounts of the Druids from an author who was in Gaul.However, although Caesar provides what is seemingly a first-hand account, much of his knowledge of the Druids is not from personal experience, but rather the hearsay of others and is regarded as anachronistic. Caesar based some of his account after that of Posidonius, who wrote a clear and well-known account of the Druids in Gaul. Caesar provides his account of the Druids as a means of sharing his knowledge and educating the Roman people on the foreign conquests.
There is no doubt that the Druids offered sacrifices to their god. However, scholars are still uncertain about what they would offer. Caesar, along with other Roman authors, assert that the Druids would offer human sacrifices on numerous occasions for relief from disease and famine or for a successful war campaign. Caesar provides a detailed account of the manner in which the supposed human sacrifices occurred in chapter 16, claiming that "they have images of immense size, the limbs of which are framed with twisted twigs and filled with living persons. These being set on fire, those within are encompassed by the flames" (DBG 6.16).
Caesar, however, also observes and mentions a civil Druid culture. In chapter 13, he claims that they select a single leader who ruled until his death, and a successor would be chosen by a vote or through violence. Also in chapter 13, he mentions that the Druids studied "the stars and their movements, the size of the cosmos and the earth, the nature of the world, and the powers of immortal deities," signifying to the Roman people that the druids were also versed in astrology, cosmology, and theology. Although Caesar is one of the few primary sources on the druids, many believe that he had used his influence to portray the druids to the Roman people as both barbaric, as they perform human sacrifices, and civilized in order to depict the Druids as a society worth assimilating to Rome (DBG 6.16).
Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo were two centurions in the garrison of Quintus Tullius Cicero, brother of Marcus Tullius Cicero, and are mentioned in Book 5.44 of De Bello Gallico. They were bitter rivals who both sought to achieve the greatest honors "and every year used to contend for promotion with the utmost animosity" [omnibusque annis de locis summis simultatibus contendebant] (DBG 5.44). Their garrison had come under siege during a rebellion by the tribes of the Belgae led by Ambiorix. They showed their prowess during this siege by jumping from the wall and directly into the enemy despite being completely outnumbered. During the fighting, they both find themselves in difficult positions and are forced to save each other, first Vorenus saving Pullo and then Pullo saving Vorenus. Through great bravery they are both able to make it back alive slaying many enemies in the process. They return to the camp showered in praise and honors by their fellow soldiers. The phrase, Sic fortuna in contentione et certamine utrumque versavit, ut alter alteri inimicus auxilio salutique esset, neque diiudicari posset, uter utri virtute anteferendus videretur, is used to emphasize that though they started out in competition, they both showed themselves to be worthy of the highest praise and equal to each other in bravery (DBG 5.44).
Caesar uses this anecdote to illustrate the courage and bravery of his soldiers. Since his forces had already been humiliated and defeated in previous engagements, he needed to report a success story to Rome that would lift the spirits of the people. Furthermore, the tale of unity on the battlefield between two personal rivals is in direct opposition to the disunity of Sabinus and Cotta, which resulted in the destruction of an entire legion.He relates this particular account to illustrate that, despite the losses against Ambiorix and his army, Rome is still able to trust in the valor of its soldiers. Thus, Caesar turns a military blunder into a positive propaganda story.
In the first two books of De Bello Gallico, there are seven examples of hostage exchanges. First, the Helveti exchange hostages with the Sequani as a promise that the Sequani will let the Helveti pass and that the Helveti will not cause mischief (1.9 and 1.19). The Helveti also give Caesar hostages to ensure that the Helveti keep their promises (1.14). Then the Aedui gave hostages to the Sequani, during the Sequani's rise to power (1.31). In book two, the Belgae were exchanging hostages to create an alliance against Rome (2.1) and the Remi offered Caesar hostages in their surrender (2.3, 2.5). Later in the book Caesar receives 600 hostages from the Aedui (2.15) and other hostages from most of Gaul (2.35). This practice of exchanging hostages continues to be used throughout Caesar's campaigns in diplomacy and foreign policy.
Today the term hostage has a different connotation than it did for the Ancient Romans, which is shown in the examples above. Where the Romans did take prisoners of war, hostages could also be given or exchanged in times of peace. The taking of hostages as collateral during political arrangements was a common practice in ancient Rome.The idea of the practice was that important people from each side were given to ensure that both sides kept their word; a type of contract. Two examples of this is when Caesar demands the children of chieftains (2.5) and accepted the two sons of King Galba (2.13). However, as seen by Caesar, sometimes it was only a one-way exchange, with Caesar taking hostages but not giving any.
There is evidence though, particularly in Caesar's De Bello Gallico, indicating that the practice was not always effective. Cities often moved to revolt against Rome, even though hostages were in Roman custody. Occasionally, hostages would be entrusted to a neutral or mediating party during a revolt, such as the time one hundred hostages surrendered by the Senones were placed in the custody of the Aedui who helped negotiate between the revolters and Caesar.Some sources say there is not much evidence that hostages were even harmed, at least severely, in retribution of the broken agreements. It is commonly noted that Caesar never mentions penalties being dealt to hostages. Taking hostages did benefit Rome in one particular way: since hostages were commonly the sons of political figures and would typically be under Roman watch for a year or more, Romans had ample time to introduce those hostages to the Roman customs in hopes that when they were freed, they would go on to become influential political leaders themselves and favor Rome in subsequent foreign relations.
This book is often lauded for its polished, clear Latin; in particular, German historian Hans Herzfeld describes the work as "a paradigm of proper reporting and stylistic clarity".It is traditionally the first authentic text assigned to students of Latin, as Xenophon's Anabasis is for students of Ancient Greek; they are both autobiographical tales of military adventure told in the third person. It contains many details and employs many stylistic devices to promote Caesar's political interests.
The books are valuable for the many geographical and historical claims that can be retrieved from the work. Notable chapters describe Gaulish custom (VI, 13), their religion (VI, 17), and a comparison between Gauls and Germanic peoples (VI, 24).
Since Caesar is one of the characters in the Astérix and Obélix albums, René Goscinny included gags for French schoolchildren who had the Commentarii as a textbook, even though Latin was then disappearing from French schools.One example is having Caesar talk about himself in the third person as in the book.
Most English editions of Asterix begin with the prelude: "The year is 50 BC. Gaul is entirely occupied by the Romans. Well not entirely! One small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the invaders." In the 36th book of the Asterix series, Asterix and the Missing Scroll , a fictitious and supposedly censored chapter from Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War forms the basis for the story.
In Book 5, Chapter 44 the Commentarii de Bello Gallico notably mentions Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, two Roman centurions of the 11th Legion.The 2005 television series Rome gives a fictionalized account of Caesar's rise and fall, featuring Kevin McKidd as the character of Lucius Vorenus and Ray Stevenson as the character of Titus Pullo of the 13th Legion.
During World War I the French composer Vincent d'Indy wrote his Third Symphony, which bears the title De Bello Gallico. D'Indy was adapting Caesar's title to the situation of the current struggle in France against the German army, in which he had a son and nephew fighting, and which the music illustrates to some extent.
Since the work of Karl Nipperdey in 1847, the existing manuscripts have been divided into two classes. The first (α) encompasses manuscripts containing only De Bello Gallico and characterized by colophons with allusions to late antique correctores. The oldest manuscript in this class is MS. Amsterdam 73, written at Fleury Abbey in the later ninth century. The second (β) encompasses manuscripts containing all of the related works—not only De Bello Gallico, but De Bello Civili , De Bello Alexandrino , De Bello Africo , and De Bello Hispaniensi , always in that order. The oldest manuscript in this class is MS Paris lat. 3864, written at Corbie in the last quarter of the ninth century. For De Bello Gallico, the readings of α are considered better than β.
The editio princeps was published by Giovanni Andrea Bussi at Rome in 1469.
The Aedui, Haedui, or Hedui were a Gallic people of Gallia Lugdunensis, who inhabited the country between the Arar (Saône) and Liger (Loire), in today's France. Their territory thus included the greater part of the modern departments of Saône-et-Loire, Côte-d'Or and Nièvre.
Vercingetorix was a king and chieftain of the Arverni tribe; he united the Gauls in a revolt against Roman forces during the last phase of Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars.
The Gallic Wars were a series of military campaigns waged by the Roman proconsul Julius Caesar against several Gallic tribes. Rome's war against the Gallic tribes lasted from 58 BC to 50 BC and culminated in the decisive Battle of Alesia in 52 BC, in which a complete Roman victory resulted in the expansion of the Roman Republic over the whole of Gaul. While militarily just as strong as the Romans, the internal division between the Gallic tribes helped ease victory for Caesar, and Vercingetorix's attempt to unite the Gauls against Roman invasion came too late. The wars paved the way for Julius Caesar to become the sole ruler of the Roman Republic.
The Arverni were a Celtic tribe. The tribe was located in what is today the French Auvergne region, which derives its name from the Arverni. One of the most powerful tribes in ancient Gaul, the Arverni opposed the Romans on several occasions. One of their most important strongholds was Gergovia, near the present-day commune of Clermont-Ferrand.
The Battle of Alesia or Siege of Alesia was a military engagement in the Gallic Wars that took place in September, 52 BC, around the Gallic oppidum of Alesia, a major centre of the Mandubii tribe. It was fought by the army of Julius Caesar against a confederation of Gallic tribes united under the leadership of Vercingetorix of the Arverni. It was the last major engagement between Gauls and Romans, and is considered one of Caesar's greatest military achievements and a classic example of siege warfare and investment. The battle of Alesia marked the end of Gallic independence in France and Belgium.
Ariovistus was a leader of the Suebi and other allied Germanic peoples in the second quarter of the 1st century BC. He and his followers took part in a war in Gaul, assisting the Arverni and Sequani in defeating their rivals, the Aedui. They then settled in large numbers into conquered Gallic territory, in the Alsace region. They were defeated, however, in the Battle of Vosges and driven back over the Rhine in 58 BC by Julius Caesar.
The Battle of Gergovia took place in 52 BC in Gaul at Gergovia, the chief oppidum of the Arverni. The battle was fought between a Roman Republican army, led by proconsul Julius Caesar, and Gallic forces led by Vercingetorix, who was also the Arverni chieftain. The Gauls won the battle.
Orgetorix was a wealthy aristocrat among the Helvetii, a Celtic-speaking people residing in what is now Switzerland during the consulship of Julius Caesar of the Roman Republic.
Commius was a king of the Belgic nation of the Atrebates, initially in Gaul, then in Britain, in the 1st century BC.
Dumnorix was a chieftain of the Aedui, a Celtic tribe in Gaul in the 1st century B.C. He was the younger brother of Divitiacus, the Aedui druid and statesman. The Aedui were allies of Rome, but Dumnorix was a leader of the tribe’s anti-Roman faction, who “...thought it better to be dominated by their fellow Gauls... rather than the Romans.”
Sequani, in ancient geography, were a Gallic people who occupied the upper river basin of the Arar (Saône), the valley of the Doubs and the Jura Mountains, their territory corresponding to Franche-Comté and part of Burgundy.
"Triumph" is the tenth episode of the first season of the television series Rome.
Diviciacus or Divitiacus of the Aedui is the only druid from antiquity whose existence is attested by name. The name may mean "avenger."
In the course of his Gallic Wars, Julius Caesar invaded Britain twice: in 55 and 54 BC. On the first occasion Caesar took with him only two legions, and achieved little beyond a landing on the coast of Kent. The second invasion consisted of 628 ships, five legions and 2,000 cavalry. The force was so imposing that the Britons did not dare contest Caesar's landing in Kent, waiting instead until he began to move inland. Caesar now penetrated into Middlesex and crossed the Thames, forcing the British warlord Cassivellaunus to surrender as a tributary to Rome and setting up Mandubracius of the Trinovantes as client king.
The Gauls were a group of Celtic peoples of Continental Europe in the Iron Age and the Roman period. The area they originally inhabited was known as Gaul. Their Gaulish language forms the main branch of the Continental Celtic languages.
Litaviccus was a member of the Gallic tribe of Aedui. He played an important role at the Siege of Gergovia. Though the Aedui at first supported Julius Caesar in his struggle against Vercingetorix, they defected from the Romans and joined Vercingetorix.
Convictolitavis was a prominent member of the Celtic civitas of the Haedui during the Gallic Wars. He played a significant role in the pan-Gallic rebellion of 52 BC, as narrated by Julius Caesar in Book 7 of his Commentarii de Bello Gallico.
Gaius Valerius Troucillus or Procillus was a Helvian Celt who served as an interpreter and envoy for Julius Caesar in the first year of the Gallic Wars. Troucillus was a second-generation Roman citizen, and is one of the few ethnic Celts who can be identified both as a citizen and by affiliation with a Celtic polity. His father, Caburus, and a brother are named in Book 7 of Caesar's Bellum Gallicum as defenders of Helvian territory against a force sent by Vercingetorix in 52 BC. Troucillus plays a role in two episodes from the first book of Caesar's war commentaries, as an interpreter for the druid Diviciacus and as an envoy to the Suebian king Ariovistus, who accuses him of spying and has him thrown in chains.
The Battle of Magetobriga was fought in 63 BC between rival tribes in Gaul. The Aedui tribe was defeated and massacred by the combined forces of their hereditary rivals, the Sequani and Arverni tribes. The Sequani and Arverni enlisted the aid of the Germanic Suebi tribe under their king Ariovistus. Following their defeat, the Aedui sent envoys to the Roman Senate, their traditional ally, for aid. The Roman general Julius Caesar would subsequently use their request for aid as a basis for furthering his conquest of Gaul.
Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo were two Roman centurions of the 11th Legion mentioned in the personal writings of Julius Caesar.
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