All Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another, those who in their own language are called Celts, in ours Gauls, the third. All these differ from each other in language, customs and laws. The river Garonne separates the Gauls from the Aquitani; the Marne and the Seine separate them from the Belgae. Of all these, the Belgae are the bravest, because they are farthest from the civilisation and refinement of our Province, and merchants least frequently resort to them and import those things which tend to effeminate the mind; and they are the nearest to the Germans, who dwell beyond the Rhine, with whom they are continually waging war; for which reason the Helvetii also surpass the rest of the Gauls in valour, as they contend with the Germans in almost daily battles, when they either repel them from their own territories, or themselves wage war on their frontiers. One part of these, which it has been said that the Gauls occupy, takes its beginning at the river Rhone; it is bounded by the river Garonne, the ocean, and the territories of the Belgae; it borders, too, on the side of the Sequani and the Helvetii, upon the river Rhine, and stretches towards the north. The Belgae rise from the extreme frontier of Gaul, extend to the lower part of the river Rhine; and look towards the north and the rising sun. Aquitania extends from the river Garonne to the Pyrenaean mountains and to that part of the ocean which is near Spain: it looks between the setting of the sun and the north star.
Among the Helvetii, Orgetorix was by far the most distinguished and wealthy. He, when Marcus Messala and Marcus Piso were consuls, incited by lust of sovereignty, formed a conspiracy among the nobility, and persuaded the people to go forth from their territories with all their possessions, saying that it would be very easy, since they excelled all in valour, to acquire the supremacy of the whole of Gaul. To this he the more easily persuaded them, because the Helvetii are confined on every side by the nature of their situation; on one side by the Rhine, a very broad and deep river, which separates the Helvetian territory from the Germans; on a second side by the Jura, a very high mountain which is situated between the Sequani and the Helvetii; on a third by the Lake of Geneva, and by the river Rhone, which separates our Province from the Helvetii. From these circumstances it resulted that they could range less widely, and could less easily make war upon their neighbours; for which reason men fond of war [as they were] were affected with great regret. They thought, that considering the extent of their population, and their renown for warfare and bravery, they had but narrow limits, although they extended in length 240, and in breadth 180 miles.1
Induced by these considerations, and influenced by the authority of Orgetorix, they determined to provide such things as were necessary for their expedition—to buy up as great a number as possible of beasts of burden and wagons—to make their sowings as large as possible, so that on their march plenty of corn might be in store—and to establish peace and friendship with the neighbouring states. They reckoned that a term of two years would be sufficient for them to execute their designs; they fix by decree their departure for the third year. Orgetorix is chosen to complete these arrangements. He took upon himself the office of ambassador to the states: on this journey he persuades Casticus, the son of Catamantaledes (one of the Sequani, whose father had possessed the sovereignty among the people for many years, and had been styled “friend” by the senate of the Roman people), to seize upon the sovereignty in his own state, which his father had held before him, and he likewise persuades Dumnorix, an Aeduan, the brother of Divitiacus, who at that time possessed the chief authority in the state, and was exceedingly beloved by the people, to attempt the same, and gives him his daughter in marriage. He proves to them that to accomplish their attempts was a thing very easy to be done, because he himself would obtain the government of his own state; that there was no doubt that the Helvetii were the most powerful of the whole of Gaul; he assures them that he will, with his own forces and his own army, acquire the sovereignty for them. Incited by this speech, they give a pledge and oath to one another, and hope that, when they have seized the sovereignty, they will, by means of the three most powerful and valiant nations, be enabled to obtain possession of the whole of Gaul.
When this scheme was disclosed to the Helvetii by informers, they, according to their custom, compelled Orgetorix to plead his cause in chains; it was the law that the penalty of being burned by fire should await him if condemned. On the day appointed for the pleading of his cause, Orgetorix drew together from all quarters to the court all his vassals to the number of ten thousand persons; and led together to the same place, and all his dependants and debtor-bondsmen, of whom he had a great number; by means of these he rescued himself from the necessity of pleading his cause. While the state, incensed at this act, was endeavouring to assert its right by arms, and the magistrates were mustering a large body of men from the country, Orgetorix died; and there is not wanting a suspicion, as the Helvetii think, of his having committed suicide.
After his death, the Helvetii nevertheless attempt to do that which they had resolved on, namely, to go forth from their territories. When they thought that they were at length prepared for this undertaking, they set fire to all their towns, in number about twelve—to their villages about four hundred—and to the private dwellings that remained; they burn up all the corn, except what they intend to carry with them; that after destroying the hope of a return home, they might be the more ready for undergoing all dangers. They order everyone to carry forth from home for himself provisions for three months, ready ground. They persuade the Rauraci, and the Tulingi, and the Latobrigi, their neighbours, to adopt the same plan, and after burning down their towns and villages, to set out with them: and they admit to their party and unite to themselves as confederates the Boii, who had dwelt on the other side of the Rhine, and had crossed over into the Norican territory, and assaulted Noreia.
There were in all two routes by which they could go forth from their country—one through the Sequani, narrow and difficult, between Mount Jura and the river Rhone (by which scarcely one wagon at a time could be led; there was, moreover, a very high mountain overhanging, so that a very few might easily intercept them); the other, through our Province, much easier and freer from obstacles, because the Rhone flows between the boundaries of the Helvetii and those of the Allobroges, who had lately been subdued, and is in some places crossed by a ford. The furthest town of the Allobroges, and the nearest to the territories of the Helvetii, is Geneva. From this town a bridge extends to the Helvetii. They thought that they should either persuade the Allobroges, because they did not seem as yet well-affected towards the Roman people, or compel them by force to allow them to pass through their territories. Having provided everything for the expedition, they appoint a day on which they should all meet on the bank of the Rhone. This day was the fifth before the kalends2 of April, in the consulship of Lucius Piso and Aulus Gabinius.3
When it was reported to Caesar that they were attempting to make their route through our Province, he hastens to set out from the city, and, by as great marches as he can, proceeds to Further Gaul, and arrives at Geneva. He orders the whole Province to furnish as great a number of soldiers as possible, as there was in all only one legion in Further Gaul: he orders the bridge at Geneva to be broken down. When the Helvetii are apprised of his arrival, they send to him, as ambassadors, the most illustrious men of their state (in which embassy Numeius and Verudoctius held the chief place), to say “that it was their intention to march through the Province without doing any harm, because they had no other route:4 that they requested they might be allowed to do so with his consent.” Caesar, inasmuch as he kept in remembrance that Lucius Cassius, the consul, had been slain, and his army routed and made to pass under the yoke by the Helvetii, did not think that their request ought to be granted; nor was he of opinion that men of hostile disposition, if an opportunity of marching through the Province were given them, would abstain from outrage and mischief. Yet, in order that a period might intervene, until the soldiers whom he had ordered [to be furnished] should assemble, he replied to the ambassadors, that he would take time to deliberate; if they wanted anything, they might return on the day before the ides of April.5
Meanwhile, with the legion which he had with him and the soldiers who had assembled from the Province, he carries along for nineteen miles6 a wall, to the height of sixteen feet, and a trench, from the lake of Geneva, which flows into the river Rhone, to Mount Jura, which separates the territories of the Sequani from those of the Helvetii. When that work was finished, he distributes garrisons, and closely fortifies redoubts, in order that he may the more easily intercept them, if they should attempt to cross over against his will. When the day which he had appointed with the ambassadors came, and they returned to him, he says that he cannot, consistently with the custom and precedent of the Roman people, grant anyone a passage through the Province; and he gives them to understand that, if they should attempt to use violence, he would oppose them. The Helvetii, disappointed in this hope, tried if they could force a passage (some by means of a bridge of boats and numerous rafts constructed for the purpose; others, by the fords of the Rhone, where the depth of the river was least, sometimes by day, but more frequently by night), but being kept at bay by the strength of our works, and by the concourse of the soldiers, and by the missiles, they desisted from this attempt.
There was left one way, namely through the Sequani, by which, on account of its narrowness, they could not pass without the consent of the Sequani. As they could not of themselves prevail on them, they send ambassadors to Dumnorix the Aeduan, that through his intercession they might obtain their request from the Sequani. Dumnorix, by his popularity and liberality, had great influence among the Sequani, and was friendly to the Helvetii, because out of that state he had married the daughter of Orgetorix; and, incited by lust of sovereignty, was anxious for a revolution, and wished to have as many states as possible attached to him by his kindness towards them. He, therefore, undertakes the affair, and prevails upon the Sequani to allow the Helvetii to march through their territories, and arranges that they should give hostages to each other—the Sequani not to obstruct the Helvetii in their march—the Helvetii, to pass without mischief and outrage.
It is again told Caesar that the Helvetii intend to march through the country of the Sequani and the Aedui into the territories of the Santones, which are not far distant from those boundaries of the Tolosates, which is a state in the Province.7 If this took place, he saw that it would be attended with great danger to the Province to have warlike men, enemies of the Roman people, bordering upon an open and very fertile tract of country. For these reasons he appointed Titus Labienus, his lieutenant, to the command of the fortification which he had made. He himself proceeds to Italy by forced marches, and there levies two legions, and leads out from winter-quarters three which were wintering around Aquileia, and with these five legions marches rapidly by the nearest route across the Alps into Further Gaul. Here the Centrones and the Graioceli and the Caturiges, having taken possession of the higher parts, attempt to obstruct the army in their march. After having routed these in several battles, he arrives in the territories of the Vocontii in the Further Province on the seventh day from Ocelum, which is the most remote town of the Hither Province; thence he leads his army into the country of the Allobroges, and from the Allobroges to the Segusiani. These people are the first beyond the Province on the opposite side of the Rhone.
The Helvetii had by this time led their forces over through the narrow defile and the territories of the Sequani, and had arrived at the territories of the Aedui, and were ravaging their lands. The Aedui, as they could not defend themselves and their possessions against them, send ambassadors to Caesar to ask assistance, pleading that they had at all times so well deserved of the Roman people, that their fields ought not to have been laid waste—their children carried off into slavery—their towns stormed, almost within sight of our army. At the same time the Ambarri, the friends and kinsmen of the Aedui, apprise Caesar that it was not easy for them, now that their fields had been devastated, to ward off the violence of the enemy from their towns: the Allobroges likewise, who had villages and possessions on the other side of the Rhone, betake themselves in flight to Caesar and assure him that they had nothing remaining, except the soil of their land. Caesar, induced by these circumstances, decides that he ought not to wait until the Helvetii, after destroying all the property of his allies, should arrive among the Santones.
There is a river called the Saône, which flows through the territories of the Aedui and Sequani into the Rhone with such incredible slowness, that it cannot be determined by the eye in which direction it flows. This the Helvetii were crossing by rafts and boats joined together. When Caesar was informed by spies that the Helvetii had already conveyed three parts of their forces across that river, but that the fourth part was left behind on this side of the Saône, he set out from the camp with three legions during the third watch, and came up with that division which had not yet crossed the river. Attacking them, encumbered with baggage, and not expecting him, he cut to pieces a great part of them; the rest betook themselves to flight, and concealed themselves in the nearest woods. That canton [which was cut down] was called the Tigurine; for the whole Helvetian state is divided into four cantons. This single canton having left their country, within the recollection of our fathers, had slain Lucius Cassius the consul, and had made his army pass under the yoke.8 Thus, whether by chance, or by the design of the immortal gods, that part of the Helvetian state which had brought a signal calamity upon the Roman people was the first to pay the penalty. In this Caesar avenged not only the public, but also his own personal wrongs, because the Tigurini had slain Lucius Piso the lieutenant [of Cassius], the grandfather of Lucius Calpurnius Piso, his [Caesar’s] father in-law, in the same battle as Cassius himself.
This battle ended, that he might be able to come up with the remaining forces of the Helvetii, he procures a bridge to be made across the Saône, and thus leads his army over. The Helvetii, confused by his sudden arrival, when they found that he had effected in one day what they themselves had with the utmost difficulty accomplished in twenty, namely, the crossing of the river, send ambassadors to him; at the head of which embassy was Divico, who had been commander of the Helvetii in the war against Cassius. He thus treats with Caesar:—that, “if the Roman people would make peace with the Helvetii they would go to that part and there remain, where Caesar might appoint and desire them to be; but if he should persist in persecuting them with war, that he ought to remember both the ancient disgrace of the Roman people and the characteristic valour of the Helvetii. As to his having attacked one canton by surprise, at a time when those who had crossed the river could not bring assistance to their friends, that he ought not on that account to ascribe very much to his own valour, or despise them; that they had so learned from their sires and ancestors, as to rely more on valour than on artifice or stratagem. Wherefore let him not bring it to pass that the place, where they were standing, should acquire a name, from the disaster of the Roman people and the destruction of their army or transmit the remembrance of such an event to posterity.”
To these words Caesar thus replied:—that “on that very account he felt less hesitation, because he kept in remembrance those circumstances which the Helvetian ambassadors had mentioned, and that he felt the more indignant at them, in proportion as they had happened undeservedly to the Roman people: for if they had been conscious of having done any wrong it would not have been difficult to be on their guard, but for that very reason had they been deceived, because neither were they aware that any offence had been given by them, on account of which they should be afraid, nor did they think that they ought to be afraid without cause. But even if he were willing to forget their former outrage, could he also lay aside the remembrance of the late wrongs, in that they had against his will attempted a route through the Province by force, in that they had molested the Aedui, the Ambarri, and the Allobroges? That as to their so insolently boasting of their victory, and as to their being astonished that they had so long committed their outrages with impunity, both these things tended to the same point; for the immortal gods are wont to allow those persons whom they wish to punish for their guilt sometimes a greater prosperity and longer impunity, in order that they may suffer the more severely from a reverse of circumstances. Although these things are so, yet, if hostages were to be given him by them in order that he may be assured they will do what they promise, and provided they will give satisfaction to the Aedui for the outrages which they had committed against them and their allies, and likewise to the Allobroges, he [Caesar] will make peace with them.” Divico replied, that “the Helvetii had been so trained by their ancestors that they were accustomed to receive, not to give, hostages; of that fact the Roman people were witness.” Having given this reply, he withdrew.
On the following day they move their camp from that place; Caesar does the same, and sends forward all his cavalry, to the number of four thousand (which he had drawn together from all parts of the Province and from the Aedui and their allies), to observe towards what parts the enemy are directing their march. These, having too eagerly pursued the enemy’s rear, come to a battle with the cavalry of the Helvetii in a disadvantageous place, and a few of our men fall. The Helvetii, elated with this battle because they had with five hundred horse repulsed so large a body of horse, began to face us more boldly, sometimes too from their rear to provoke our men by an attack. Caesar however restrained his men from battle, deeming it sufficient for the present to prevent the enemy from rapine, forage, and depredation. They marched for about fifteen days in such a manner that there was not more than five or six miles between the enemy’s rear and our van.
Meanwhile, Caesar kept daily importuning the Aedui for the corn which they had promised in the name of their state; for, in consequence of the coldness (Gaul being, as before said, situated towards the north), not only was the corn in the fields not ripe, but there was not in store a sufficiently large quantity even of fodder: besides he was unable to use the corn which he had conveyed in ships up the river Saône, because the Helvetii, from whom he was unwilling to retire, had diverted their march from the Saône. The Aedui kept deferring from day to day, and saying that it was being “collected—brought in—on the road.” When he saw that he was put off too long, and that the day was close at hand on which he ought to serve out the corn to his soldiers—having called together their chiefs, of whom he had a great number in his camp, among them Divitiacus, and Liscus who was invested with the chief magistracy (whom the Aedui style the Vergobretus, and who is elected annually, and has power of life and death over his countrymen), he severely reprimands them, because he is not assisted by them on so urgent an occasion, when the enemy were so close at hand, and when corn could neither be bought nor taken from the fields, particularly as, in a great measure urged by their prayers, he had undertaken the war; much more bitterly, therefore, does he complain of his being forsaken.
Then at length Liscus, moved by Caesar’s speech, discloses what he had hitherto kept secret:—that “there are some whose influence with the people is very great, who, though private men, have more power than the magistrates themselves: that these by seditious and violent language are deterring the populace from contributing the corn which they ought to supply; by telling them that, if they cannot any longer retain the supremacy of Gaul, it were better to submit to the government of Gauls than of Romans, nor ought they to doubt that, if the Romans should overpower the Helvetii, they would wrest their freedom from the Aedui together with the remainder of Gaul. By these very men [said he] are our plans, and whatever is done in the camp, disclosed to the enemy; that they could not be restrained by him: nay more, he was well aware that, though compelled by necessity, he had disclosed the matter to Caesar, at how great a risk he had done it; and for that reason, he had been silent as long as he could.”
Caesar perceived that, by this speech of Liscus, Dumnorix, the brother of Divitiacus, was indicated; but, as he was unwilling that these matters should be discussed while so many were present, he speedily dismisses the council, but detains Liscus: he inquires from him when alone, about those things which he had said in the meeting. He [Liscus] speaks more unreservedly and boldly. He [Caesar] makes inquiries on the same points privately of others, and discovers that it is all true; that “Dumnorix is the person, a man of the highest daring, in great favour with the people on account of his liberality, a man eager for a revolution: that for a great many years he has been in the habit of contracting for the customs and all the other taxes of the Aedui at a small cost, because when he bids, no one dares to bid against him. By these means he has both increased his own private property and amassed great means for giving largesses; that he maintains constantly at his own expense and keeps about his own person a great number of cavalry, and that not only at home, but even among the neighbouring states, he has great influence, and for the sake of strengthening this influence has given his mother in marriage among the Bituriges to a man the most noble and most influential there; that he has himself taken a wife from among the Helvetii, and has given his sister by the mother’s side and his female relations in marriage into other states; that he favours and wishes well to the Helvetii on account of this connection; and that he hates Caesar and the Romans, on his own account, because by their arrival his power was weakened, and his brother, Divitiacus, restored to his former position of influence and dignity: that, if anything should happen to the Romans, he entertains the highest hope of gaining the sovereignty by means of the Helvetii, but that under the government of the Roman people he despairs not only of royalty but even of that influence which he already has.” Caesar discovered too, on inquiring into the unsuccessful cavalry engagement which had taken place a few days before, that the commencement of that flight had been made by Dumnorix and his cavalry (for Dumnorix was in command of the cavalry which the Aedui had sent for aid to Caesar); that by their flight the rest of the cavalry was dismayed.
After learning these circumstances, since to these suspicions the most unequivocal facts were added, viz., that he had led the Helvetii through the territories of the Sequani; that he had provided that hostages should be mutually given; that he had done all these things, not only without any orders of his [Caesar’s] and of his own state’s, but even without their [the Aedui] knowing anything of it themselves; that he [Dumnorix] was reprimanded by the chief magistrate of the Aedui; he [Caesar] considered that there was sufficient reason why he should either punish him himself, or order the state to do so. One thing however stood in the way of all this—that he had learned by experience his brother Divitiacus’s very high regard for the Roman people, his great affection towards him, his distinguished faithfulness, justice, and moderation; for he was afraid lest by the punishment of this man, he should hurt the feelings of Divitiacus. Therefore, before he attempted anything, he orders Divitiacus to be summoned to him, and when the ordinary interpreters had been withdrawn, converses with him through Caius Valerius Procillus, chief of the province of Gaul, an intimate friend of his, in whom he reposed the highest confidence in everything; at the same time he reminds him of what was said about Dumnorix in the council of the Gauls, when he himself was present, and shows what each had said of him privately in his [Caesar’s] own presence; he begs and exhorts him, that, without offence to his feelings, he may either himself pass judgment on him [Dumnorix] after trying the case, or else order the Aeduan state to do so.
Divitiacus, embracing Caesar, begins to implore him, with many tears, that “he would not pass any very severe sentence upon his brother; saying, that he knows that those charges are true, and that nobody suffered more pain on that account than he himself did; for when he himself could effect a very great deal by his influence at home and in the rest of Gaul, and he [Dumnorix] very little on account of his youth, the latter had become powerful through his means, which power and strength he used not only to the lessening of his [Divitiacus’s] popularity, but almost to his ruin; that he, however, was influenced both by fraternal affection and by public opinion. But if anything very severe from Caesar should befall him [Dumnorix], no one would think that it had been done without his consent, since he himself held such a place in Caesar’s friendship; from which circumstance it would arise that the affections of the whole of Gaul would be estranged from him.” As he was with tears begging these things of Caesar in many words, Caesar takes his right hand, and, comforting him, begs him to make an end of entreating, and assures him that his regard for him is so great that he forgives both the injuries of the republic and his private wrongs, at his desire and prayers. He summons Dumnorix to him; he brings in his brother; he points out what he censures in him; he lays before him what he of himself perceives, and what the state complains of; he warns him for the future to avoid all grounds of suspicion; he says that he pardons the past, for the sake of his brother, Divitiacus. He sets spies over Dumnorix that he may be able to know what he does, and with whom he communicates.
Being on the same day informed by his scouts that the enemy had encamped at the foot of a mountain eight miles from his own camp, he sent persons to ascertain what the nature of the mountain was, and of what kind the ascent on every side. Word was brought back that it was easy. During the third watch he orders Titus Labienus, his lieutenant with praetorian powers, to ascend to the highest ridge of the mountain with two legions, and with those as guides who had examined the road; he explains what his plan is. He himself during the fourth watch, hastens to them by the same route by which the enemy had gone, and sends on all the cavalry before him. Publius Considius, who was reputed to be very experienced in military affairs, and had been in the army of Lucius Sulla, and afterwards in that of Marcus Crassus, is sent forward with the scouts.
At daybreak, when the summit of the mountain was in the possession of Titus Labienus, and he himself was not further off than a mile and half from the enemy’s camp, nor, as he afterwards ascertained from the captives, had either his arrival or that of Labienus been discovered; Considius, with his horse at full gallop, comes up to him—says that the mountain which he [Caesar] wished should be seized by Labienus, is in possession of the enemy; that he has discovered this by the Gallic arms and ensigns. Caesar leads off his forces to the next hill and draws them up in battle-order. Labienus, as he had been ordered by Caesar not to come to an engagement unless [Caesar’s] own forces were seen near the enemy’s camp, that the attack upon the enemy might be made on every side at the same time, was, after having taken possession of the mountain, waiting for our men, and refraining from battle. When, at length, the day was far advanced, Caesar learned through spies that the mountain was in possession of his own men, and that the Helvetii had moved their camp, and that Considius, struck with fear, had reported to him, as seen, that which he had not seen. On that day he follows the enemy at his usual distance, and pitches his camp three miles from theirs.
The next day (as there remained in all only two days’ space to the time when he must serve out the corn to his army, and as he was not more than eighteen miles from Bibracte, by far the largest and best-stored town of the Aedui) he thought that he ought to provide for a supply of corn; and diverted his march from the Helvetii, and advanced rapidly to Bibracte. This circumstance is reported to the enemy by some deserters from Lucius Aemilius, a captain of the Gallic horse. The Helvetii, either because they thought that the Romans, struck with terror, were retreating from them, the more so, as the day before, though they had seized on the higher grounds, they had not joined battle; or because they flattered themselves that they might be cut off from the provisions, altering their plan and changing their route, began to pursue and to annoy our men in the rear.
Caesar, when he observes this, draws off his forces to the next hill, and sent the cavalry to sustain the attack of the enemy. He himself, meanwhile, drew up on the middle of the hill a triple line of his four veteran legions in such a manner that he placed above him on the very summit the two legions which he had lately levied in Hither Gaul, and all the auxiliaries; and he ordered that the whole mountain should be covered with men, and that meanwhile the baggage should be brought together into one place, and the position be protected by those who were posted in the upper line. The Helvetii, having followed with all their wagons, collected their baggage into one place: they themselves, after having repulsed our cavalry and formed a phalanx, advanced up to our front line in very close order.
Caesar, having removed out of sight first his own horse, then those of all, that he might make the danger of all equal, and do away with the hope of flight, after encouraging his men, joined battle. His soldiers, hurling their javelins from the higher ground, easily broke the enemy’s phalanx. That being dispersed, they made a charge on them with drawn swords. It was a great hindrance to the Gauls in fighting, that, when several of their bucklers had been by one stroke of the (Roman) javelins pierced through and pinned fast together, as the point of the iron had bent itself, they could neither pluck it out, nor, with their left hand entangled, fight with sufficient ease; so that many, after having long tossed their arm about, chose rather to cast away the buckler from their hand, and to fight with their person unprotected. At length, worn out with wounds, they began to give way, and as there was in the neighbourhood a mountain about a mile off, to betake themselves thither. When the mountain had been gained, and our men were advancing up, the Boii and Tulingi, who with about 15,000 men closed the enemy’s line of march and served as a guard to their rear, having assailed our men on the exposed flank as they advanced [prepared] to surround them; upon seeing which, the Helvetii, who had betaken themselves to the mountain, began to press on again and renew the battle. The Romans having faced about, advanced to the attack in two divisions; the first and second line to withstand those who had been defeated and driven off the field; the third to receive those who were just arriving.
Thus was the contest long and vigorously carried on with doubtful success. When they could no longer withstand the attacks of our men, the one division, as they had begun to do, betook themselves to the mountain; the other repaired to their baggage and wagons. For during the whole of this battle, although the fight lasted from seventh hour9 to eventide, no one could see an enemy with his back turned. The fight was carried on also at the baggage till late in the night, for they had set wagons in the way as a rampart, and from the higher ground kept throwing weapons upon our men, as they came on, and some from between the wagons and the wheels kept darting their lances and javelins from beneath, and wounding our men. After the fight had lasted some time, our men gained possession of their baggage and camp. There the daughter and one of the sons of Orgetorix were taken. After that battle about 130,000 men of the enemy remained alive, who marched incessantly during the whole of that night; and after a march discontinued for no part of the night, arrived in the territories of the Lingones on the fourth day, whilst our men, having stopped for three days, both on account of the wounds of the soldiers and the burial of the slain, had not been able to follow them. Caesar sent letters and messengers to the Lingones with orders that they should not assist them with corn or with anything else; for that if they should assist them, he would regard them in the same light as the Helvetii. After the three days’ interval he began to follow them himself with all his forces.
The Helvetii, compelled by the want of everything, sent ambassadors to him about a surrender. When these had met him in the way and had thrown themselves at his feet, and speaking in suppliant tone had with tears sued for peace, and when he had ordered them to await his arrival, in the place where they then were, they obeyed his commands. When Caesar arrived at that place, he demanded hostages, their arms, and the slaves who had deserted to them. Whilst those things are being sought for and got together, after a night’s interval, about 6000 men of that canton which is called the Verbigene, whether terrified by fear, lest, after delivering up their arms, they should suffer punishment, or else induced by the hope of safety, because they supposed that, amid so vast a multitude of those who had surrendered themselves, their flight might either be concealed or entirely overlooked, having at nightfall departed out of the camp of the Helvetii, hastened to the Rhine and the territories of the Germans.
But when Caesar discovered this, he commanded those through whose territories they had gone, to seek them, out and to bring them back again, if they meant to be acquitted before him; and considered them, when brought back, in the light of enemies; he admitted all the rest to a surrender, upon their delivering up the hostages, arms, and deserters. He ordered the Helvetii, the Tulingi, and the Latobrigi to return to their territories from which they had come, and as there was at home nothing whereby they might support their hunger, all the productions of the earth having been destroyed, he commanded the Allobroges to let them have a plentiful supply of corn; and ordered them to rebuild the towns and villages which they had burnt. This he did, chiefly on this account, because he was unwilling that the country, from which the Helvetii had departed, should be untenanted, lest the Germans, who dwell on the other side of the Rhine, should, on account of the excellence of the lands, cross over from their own territories into those of the Helvetii, and become borderers upon the province of Gaul and the Allobroges. He granted the petition of the Aedui, that they might settle the Boii, in their own (i.e. in the Aeduan) territories, as these were known to be of distinguished valour to whom they gave lands, and whom they afterwards admitted to the same state of rights and freedom as themselves.
In the camp of the Helvetii, lists were found, drawn up in Greek characters, and were brought to Caesar, in which an estimate had been drawn up, name by name, of the number which had gone forth from their country of those who were able to bear arms; and likewise the boys, the old men, and the women, separately. Of all which items the total was:-
|Of the Helvetii10||263,000|
|Of the Tulingi||36,000|
|Of the Latobrigi||14,000|
|Of the Rauraci||23,000|
|Of the Boii||32,000|
|The sum of all amounted to||368,000|
Out of these, such as could bear arms amounted to about 92,000. When the census of those who returned home was taken, as Caesar had commanded, the number was found to be 110,000.
When the war with the Helvetii was concluded, ambassadors from almost all parts of Gaul, the chiefs of states, assembled to congratulate Caesar, saying that they were well aware, that, although he had taken vengeance on the Helvetii in war, for the old wrongs done by them to the Roman people, yet that circumstance had happened no less to the benefit of the land of Gaul than of the Roman people, because the Helvetii, while their affairs were most flourishing, had quitted their country with the design of making war upon the whole of Gaul, and seizing the government of it, and selecting, out of a great abundance, that spot for an abode which they should judge to be the most convenient and most productive of all Gaul, and hold the rest of the states as tributaries. They requested that they might be allowed to proclaim an assembly of the whole of Gaul for a particular day, and to do that with Caesar’s permission, stating that they had some things which, with the general consent, they wished to ask of him. This request having been granted, they appointed a day for the assembly, and ordained by an oath with each other, that no one should disclose their deliberations except those to whom this office should be assigned by the general assembly.
When that assembly was dismissed, the same chiefs of states, who had before been to Caesar, returned, and asked that they might be allowed to treat with him privately (in secret) concerning the safety of themselves and of all. That request having been obtained, they all threw themselves in tears at Caesar’s feet, saying that they no less begged and earnestly desired that what they might say should not be disclosed than that they might obtain those things which they wished for; inasmuch as they saw that, if a disclosure were made, they should be put to the greatest tortures. For these Divitiacus the Aeduan spoke and told him:—“That there were two parties in the whole of Gaul: that the Aedui stood at the head of one of these, the Arverni of the other. After these had been violently struggling with one another for the superiority for many years, it came to pass that the Germans were called in for hire by the Arverni and the Sequani. That about 15,000 of them had at first crossed the Rhine: but after that these wild and savage men had become enamoured of the lands and the refinement and the abundance of the Gauls, more were brought over, that there were now as many as 120,000 of them in Gaul: that with these the Aedui and their dependants had repeatedly struggled in arms, that they had been routed and had sustained a great calamity—had lost all their nobility, all their senate, all their cavalry. And that broken by such engagements and calamities, although they had formerly been very powerful in Gaul, both from their own valour and from the Roman people’s hospitality and friendship, they were now compelled to give the chief nobles of their state as hostages to the Sequani, and to bind their state by an oath, that they would neither demand hostages in return, nor supplicate aid from the Roman people, nor refuse to be forever under their sway and empire. That he was the only one out of all the state of the Aedui who could not be prevailed upon to take the oath or to give his children as hostages. On that account he had fled from his state and had gone to the senate at Rome to beseech aid, as he alone was bound neither by oath nor hostages. But a worse thing had befallen the victorious Sequani than the vanquished Aedui, for Ariovistus, the king of the Germans, had settled in their territories, and had seized upon a third of their land, which was the best in the whole of Gaul, and was now ordering them to depart from another third part, because a few months previously 24,000 men of the Harudes had come to him, for whom room and settlements must be provided. The consequence would be, that in a few years they would all be driven from the territories of Gaul, and all the Germans would cross the Rhine; for neither must the land of Gaul be compared with the land of the Germans, nor must the habit of living of the latter be put on a level with that of the former. Moreover, as for Ariovistus, no sooner did he defeat the forces of the Gauls in a battle, which took place at Magetobria, than he began to lord it haughtily and cruelly, to demand as hostages the children of all the principal nobles, and wreak on them every kind of cruelty, if everything was not done at his nod or pleasure; that he was a savage, passionate, and reckless man, and that his commands could no longer be borne. Unless there was some aid in Caesar and the Roman people, the Gauls must all do the same thing that the Helvetii had done: emigrate from their country, and seek another dwelling place, other settlements remote from the Germans, and try whatever fortune may fall to their lot. If these things were to be disclosed to Ariovistus, Divitiacus adds that he doubts not that he would inflict the most severe punishment on all the hostages who are in his possession, and says that Caesar could, either by his own influence and by that of his army, or by his late victory, or by name of the Roman people, intimidate him, so as to prevent a greater number of Germans being brought over the Rhine, and could protect all Gaul from the outrages of Ariovistus.”
When this speech had been delivered by Divitiacus, all who were present began with loud lamentation to entreat assistance of Caesar. Caesar noticed that the Sequani were the only people of all who did none of those things which the others did, but, with their heads bowed down, gazed on the earth in sadness. Wondering what was the reason of this conduct, he inquired of themselves. No reply did the Sequani make, but silently continued in the same sadness. When he had repeatedly inquired of them and could not elicit any answer at all, the same Divitiacus the Aeduan answered, that—“the lot of the Sequani was more wretched and grievous than that of the rest, on this account, because they alone durst not even in secret complain or supplicate aid; and shuddered at the cruelty of Ariovistus even when absent, just as if he were present; for, to the rest, despite of everything, there was an opportunity of flight given; but all tortures must be endured by the Sequani, who had admitted Ariovistus within their territories, and whose towns were all in his power.”
Caesar, on being informed of these things, cheered the minds of the Gauls with his words, and promised that this affair should be an object of his concern, saying that he had great hopes that Ariovistus, induced both by his kindness and his power, would put an end to his oppression. After delivering this speech, he dismissed the assembly; and, besides those statements, many circumstances induced him to think that this affair ought to be considered and taken up by him; especially as he saw that the Aedui, styled [as they had been] repeatedly by the senate “brethren” and “kinsmen,” were held in the thraldom and dominion of the Germans, and understood that their hostages were with Ariovistus and the Sequani, which in so mighty an empire as that of the Roman people he considered very disgraceful to himself and the republic. That, moreover, the Germans should by degrees become accustomed to cross the Rhine, and that a great body of them should come into Gaul, he saw would be dangerous to the Roman people, and judged that wild and savage men would not be likely to restrain themselves, after they had possessed themselves of all Gaul, from going forth into the province and thence marching into Italy (as the Cimbri and Teutones had done before them), particularly as the Rhone was the sole barrier that separated the Sequani from our province. Against which events he thought he ought to provide as speedily as possible. Moreover, Ariovistus, for his part, had assumed to himself such pride and arrogance that he was felt to be quite insufferable.
He therefore determined to send ambassadors to Ariovistus to demand of him to name some intermediate spot for a conference between the two, saying that he wished to treat with him on state-business and matters of the highest importance to both of them. To this embassy Ariovistus replied, that if he himself had had need of anything from Caesar, he would have gone to him; and that if Caesar wanted anything from him he ought to come to him. That, besides, neither dare he go without an army into those parts of Gaul which Caesar had possession of, nor could he, without great expense and trouble, draw his army together to one place; that to him, moreover, it appeared strange what business either Caesar or the Roman people at all had in his own Gaul, which he had conquered in war.
When these answers were reported to Caesar, he sends ambassadors to him a second time with this message “Since, after having been treated with so much kindness by himself and the Roman people (as he had in his consulship11 been styled ‘king and friend’ by the senate), he makes this recompense to [Caesar] himself and the Roman people, that when invited to a conference he demurs, and does not think that it concerns him to advise and inform himself about an object of mutual interest, these are the things which he requires of him; first, that he do not any more bring over any body of men across the Rhine into Gaul; in the next place, that he restore the hostages which he has from the Aedui, and grant the Sequani permission to restore to them with his consent those hostages which they have, and that he neither provoke the Aedui by outrage nor make war upon them or their allies; if he would accordingly do this,” [Caesar says] that “he himself and the Roman people will entertain a perpetual feeling of favour and friendship towards him; but that if he [Caesar] does not obtain his desires, that he (forasmuch as in the consulship of Marcus Messala and Marcus Piso12 the senate had decreed that, whoever should have the administration of the province of Gaul should, as far as he could do so consistently with the interests of the republic, protect the Aedui and the other friends of the Roman people) will not overlook the wrongs of the Aedui.”
To this Ariovistus replied, that “the right of war was, that they who had conquered should govern those whom they had conquered, in what manner they pleased; that in that way the Roman people were wont to govern the nations which they had conquered, not according to the dictation of any other, but according to their own discretion. If he for his part did not dictate to the Roman people as to the manner in which they were to exercise their right, he ought not to be obstructed by the Roman people in his right; that the Aedui, inasmuch as they had tried the fortune of war and had engaged in arms and been conquered, had become tributaries to him; that Caesar was doing a great injustice, in that by his arrival he was making his revenues less valuable to him; that he should not restore their hostages to the Aedui, but should not make war wrongfully either upon them or their allies, if they abided by that which had been agreed on, and paid their tribute annually: if they did not continue to do that, the Roman people’s name of ‘brothers’ would avail them nought. As to Caesar’s threatening him that be would not overlook the wrongs of the Aedui, he said that no one had ever entered into a contest with him without utter ruin to himself. That Caesar might enter the lists when he chose; he would feel what the invincible Germans, well-trained [as they were] beyond all others to arms, who for fourteen years had not been beneath a roof, could achieve by their valour.”
At the same time that this message was delivered to Caesar, ambassadors came from the Aedui and the Treviri; from the Aedui to complain that the Harudes, who had lately been brought over into Gaul, were ravaging their territories; that they had not been able to purchase peace from Ariovistus, even by giving hostages: and from the Treviri, to state that a hundred cantons of the Suevi had encamped on the banks of the Rhine, and were attempting to cross it; that the brothers, Nasuas and Cimberius, headed them. Being greatly alarmed at these things, Caesar thought that he ought to use all despatch, lest, if this new band of Suevi should unite with the old troops of Ariovistus, he [Ariovistus] might be less easily withstood. Having, therefore, as quickly as he could, provided a supply of corn, he hastened to Ariovistus by forced marches.
When he had proceeded three days’ journey, word was brought to him that Ariovistus was hastening with all his forces to seize on Vesontio, which is the largest town of the Sequani, and had advanced three days’ journey from his territories. Caesar thought that he ought to take the greatest precautions lest this should happen, for there was in that town a most ample supply of everything which was serviceable for war; and so fortified was it by the nature of the ground as to afford a great facility for protracting the war, inasmuch as the river Doubs almost surrounds the whole town, as though it were traced round it with a pair of compasses. A mountain of great height shuts in the remaining space, which is not more than 600 feet, where the river leaves a gap, in such a manner that the roots of that mountain extend to the river’s bank on either side. A wall thrown around it makes a citadel of this mountain, and connects it with the town. Hither Caesar hastens by forced marches by night and day, and, after having seized the town, stations a garrison there.
Whilst he is tarrying a few days at Vesontio, on account of corn and provisions; from the inquiries of our men and the reports of the Gauls and traders (who asserted that the Germans were men of huge stature, of incredible valour and practice in arms, that ofttimes they, on encountering them, could not bear even their countenance, and the fierceness of their eyes)—so great a panic on a sudden seized the whole army, as to discompose the minds and spirits of all in no slight degree. This first arose from the tribunes of the soldiers, the prefects and the rest, who, having followed Caesar from the city13 from motives of friendship, had no great experience in military affairs. And alleging, some of them one reason, some another, which they said made it necessary for them to depart, they requested that by his consent they might be allowed to withdraw; some, influenced by shame, stayed behind in order that they might avoid the suspicion of cowardice. These could neither compose their countenance, nor even sometimes check their tears: but hidden in their tents, either bewailed their fate, or deplored with their comrades the general danger. Wills were sealed universally throughout the whole camp. By the expressions and cowardice of these men, even those who possessed great experience in the camp, both soldiers and centurions, and those who were in command of the cavalry,14 were gradually disconcerted. Such of them as wished to be considered less alarmed, said that they did not dread the enemy, but feared the narrowness of the roads and the vastness of the forests which lay between them and Ariovistus, or else that the supplies could not be brought up readily enough. Some even declared to Caesar that when he gave orders for the camp to be moved and the troops to advance, the soldiers would not be obedient to the command, nor advance in consequence of their fear.
When Caesar observed these things, having called a council, and summoned to it the centurions of all the companies, he severely reprimanded them, “particularly for supposing that it belonged to them to inquire or conjecture, either in what direction they were marching, or with what object. That Ariovistus, during his [Caesar’s] consulship, had most anxiously sought after the friendship of the Roman people; why should anyone judge that he would so rashly depart from his duty? He for his part was persuaded that, when his demands were known and the fairness of the terms considered, he would reject neither his nor the Roman people’s favour. But even if, driven on by rage and madness, he should make war upon them, what after all were they afraid of?—or why should they despair either of their own valour or of his zeal? Of that enemy a trial had been made within our fathers’ recollection, when, on the defeat of the Cimbri and Teutones by Caius Marius, the army was regarded as having deserved no less praise than their commander himself. It had been made lately, too, in Italy; during the rebellion of the slaves, whom, however, the experience and training which they had received from us, assisted in some respect. From which a judgment might be formed of the advantages which resolution carries with it—inasmuch as those whom for some time they had groundlessly dreaded when unarmed, they had afterwards vanquished, when well armed and flushed with success. In short, that these were the same men whom the Helvetii, in frequent encounters, not only in their own territories, but also in theirs [the German], have generally vanquished, and yet cannot have been a match for our army. If the unsuccessful battle and flight of the Gauls disquieted any, these, if they made inquiries, might discover that, when the Gauls had been tired out by the long duration of the war, Ariovistus, after he had many months kept himself in his camp and in the marshes, and had given no opportunity for an engagement, fell suddenly upon them, by this time despairing of a battle and scattered in all directions, and was victorious more through stratagem and cunning than valour. But though there had been room for such stratagem against savage and unskilled men, not even [Ariovistus] himself expected that thereby our armies could be entrapped. That those who ascribed their fear to a pretence about the deficiency of supplies and the narrowness of the roads, acted presumptuously, as they seemed either to distrust their general’s discharge of his duty, or to dictate to him. That these things were his concern; that the Sequani, the Leuci, and the Lingones were to furnish the corn; and that it was already ripe in the fields; that as to the road they would soon be able to judge for themselves. As to its being reported that the soldiers would not be obedient to command, or advance, he was not at all disturbed at that; for he knew that in the case of all those whose army had not been obedient to command, either upon some mismanagement of an affair, fortune had deserted them, or, that upon some crime being discovered, covetousness had been clearly proved against them. His integrity had been seen throughout his whole life, his good fortune in the war with the Helvetii. That he would therefore instantly set about what he had intended to put off till a more distant day, and would break up his camp the next night, in the fourth watch, that he might ascertain, as soon as possible, whether a sense of honour and duty, or whether fear had more influence with them. But that, if no one else should follow, yet he would go with only the tenth legion, of which he had no misgivings, and it should be his praetorian cohort.”—This legion Caesar had both greatly favoured, and in it, on account of its valour, placed the greatest confidence.
Upon the delivery of this speech, the minds of all were changed in a surprising, manner, and the highest ardour and eagerness for prosecuting the war were engendered; and the tenth legion was the first to return thanks to him, through their military tribunes, for his having expressed this most favourable opinion of them; and assured him that they were quite ready to prosecute the war. Then, the other legions endeavoured, through their military tribunes and the centurions of the principal companies, to excuse themselves to Caesar, saying that they had never either doubted or feared, or supposed that the determination of the conduct of the war was theirs and not their general’s. Having accepted their excuse, and having had the road carefully reconnoitred by Divitiacus, because in him of all others he had the greatest faith, he found that by a circuitous route of more than fifty miles he might lead his army through open parts; he then set out in the fourth watch, as he had said he would. On the seventh day, as he did not discontinue his march, he was informed by scouts that the forces of Ariovistus were only four and twenty miles distant from ours.
Upon being apprised of Caesar’s arrival, Ariovistus sends ambassadors to him, saying that what he had before requested as to a conference, might now, as far as his permission went, take place, since he [Caesar] had approached nearer, and he considered that he might now do it without danger. Caesar did not reject the proposal and began to think that he was now returning to a rational state of mind, as he spontaneously proffered that which he had previously refused to him when requesting it; and was in great hopes that, in consideration of his own and the Roman people’s great favours towards him, the issue would be that he would desist from his obstinacy upon his demands being made known. The fifth day after that was appointed as the day of conference. Meanwhile, as ambassadors were being often sent to and fro between them, Ariovistus demanded that Caesar should not bring any foot-soldier with him to the conference, saying that “he was afraid of being ensnared by him through treachery; that both should come accompanied by cavalry; that he would not come on any other condition.” Caesar, as he neither wished that the conference should, by an excuse thrown in the way, be set aside, nor durst trust his life to the cavalry of the Gauls, decided that it would be most expedient to take away from the Gallic cavalry all their horses, and thereon to mount the legionary soldiers of the tenth legion, in which he placed the greatest confidence; in order that he might have a bodyguard as trustworthy as possible, should there be any need for action. And when this was done, one of the soldiers of the tenth legion said, not without a touch of humour, “that Caesar did more for them than he had promised; he had promised to have the tenth legion in place of his praetorian cohort; but he now converted them into horse.”
There was a large plain, and in it a mound of earth of considerable size. This spot was at nearly an equal distance from both camps. Thither, as had been appointed, they came for the conference. Caesar stationed the legion, which he had brought with him on horseback, 200 paces from this mound. The cavalry of Ariovistus also took their stand at an equal distance. Ariovistus then demanded that they should confer on horseback, and that, besides themselves, they should bring with them ten men each to the conference. When they were come to the place, Caesar, in the opening of his speech, detailed his own and the senate’s favours towards him [Ariovistus], in that he had been styled king, in that he had been styled friend, by the senate—in that very considerable presents had been sent him; which circumstance he informed him had both fallen to the lot of few, and had usually been bestowed in consideration of important personal services; that he, although he had neither an introduction, nor a just ground for the request, had obtained these honours through the kindness and munificence of himself [Caesar] and the senate. He informed him too, how old and how just were the grounds of connection that existed between themselves [the Romans] and the Aedui, what decrees of the senate had been passed in their favour, and how frequent and how honourable; how from time immemorial the Aedui had held the supremacy of the whole of Gaul; even [said Caesar] before they had sought our friendship; that it was the custom of the Roman people to desire not only that its allies and friends should lose none of their property, but be advanced in influence, dignity, and honour: who then could endure that what they had brought with them to the friendship of the Roman people, should be torn from them? He then made the same demands which he had commissioned the ambassadors to make, that Ariovistus should not make war either upon the Aedui or their allies, that he should restore the hostages; that, if he could not send back to their country any part of the Germans, he should at all events suffer none of them any more to cross the Rhine.
Ariovistus replied briefly to the demands of Caesar; but expatiated largely on his own virtues, “that he had crossed the Rhine not of his own accord, but on being invited and sent for by the Gauls; that he had not left home and kindred without great expectations and great rewards; that he had settlements in Gaul, granted by the Gauls themselves; that the hostages had been given by their own goodwill; that he took by right of war the tribute which conquerors are accustomed to impose on the conquered; that he had not made war upon the Gauls, but the Gauls upon him; that all the states of Gaul came to attack him, and had encamped against him; that all their forces had been routed and beaten by him in a single battle; that if they chose to make a second trial, he was ready to encounter them again; but if they chose to enjoy peace, it was unfair to refuse the tribute, which of their own free will they had paid up to that time. That the friendship of the Roman people ought to prove to him an ornament and a safeguard, not a detriment; and that he sought it with that expectation. But if through the Roman people the tribute was to be discontinued, and those who surrendered to be seduced from him, he would renounce the friendship of the Roman people no less heartily than he had sought it. As to his leading over a host of Germans into Gaul, that he was doing this with a view of securing himself, not of assaulting Gaul: that there was evidence of this, in that he did not come without being invited, and in that he did not make war, but merely warded it off. That he had come into Gaul before the Roman people. That never before this time did a Roman army go beyond the frontiers of the province of Gaul. What [said he] does [Caesar] desire?—why come into his [Ariovistus’s] domains?—that this was his province of Gaul, just as that is ours. As it ought not to be pardoned in him, if he were to make an attack upon our territories; so, likewise, that we were unjust to obstruct him in his prerogative. As for Caesar’s saying that the Aedui had been styled ‘brethren’ by the senate, he was not so uncivilized nor so ignorant of affairs, as not to know that the Aedui in the very last war with the Allobroges had neither rendered assistance to the Romans, nor received any from the Roman people in the struggles which the Aedui had been maintaining with him and with the Sequani. He must feel suspicious that Caesar, though feigning friendship as the reason for his keeping an army in Gaul; was keeping it with the view of crushing him. And that unless he depart, and withdraw his army from these parts, he shall regard him not as a friend, but as a foe; and that, even if he should put him to death, he should do what would please many of the nobles and leading men of the Roman people; he had assurance of that from themselves through their messengers, and could purchase the favour and the friendship of them all by his [Caesar’s] death. But if he would depart and resign to him the free possession of Gaul, he would recompense him with a great reward, and would bring to a close whatever wars he wished to be carried on, without any trouble or risk to him.”
Many things were stated by Caesar to the effect [to show]: “why he could not waive the business, and that neither his nor the Roman people’s practice would suffer him to abandon most meritorious allies, nor did he deem that Gaul belonged to Ariovistus rather than to the Roman people; that the Arverni and the Ruteni had been subdued in war by Quintus Fabius Maximus, and that the Roman people had pardoned them and had not reduced them into a province or imposed a tribute upon them. And if the most ancient period was to be regarded—then was the sovereignty of the Roman people in Gaul most just: if the decree of the senate was to be observed, then ought Gaul to be free, which they [the Romans] had conquered in war, and had permitted to enjoy its own laws.”
While these things are being transacted in the conference, it was announced to Caesar that the cavalry of Ariovistus were approaching nearer the mound, and were riding up to our men, and casting stones and weapons at them. Caesar made an end of his speech and betook himself to his men; and commanded them that they should by no means return a weapon upon the enemy. For though he saw that an engagement with the cavalry would be without any danger to his chosen legion, yet he did not think proper to engage, lest, after the enemy were routed, it might be said that they had been ensnared by him under the sanction of a conference. When it was spread abroad among the common soldiery with what haughtiness Ariovistus had behaved at the conference, and how he had ordered the Romans to quit Gaul, and how his cavalry had made an attack upon our men, and how this had broken off the conference, a much greater alacrity and eagerness for battle was infused into our army.
Two days after, Ariovistus sends ambassadors to Caesar, to state “that he wished to treat with him about those things which had been begun to be treated of between them, but had not been concluded”; and to beg that “he would either again appoint a day for a conference; or, if he were not willing to do that, that he would send one of his officers as an ambassador to him.” There did not appear to Caesar any good reason for holding a conference; and the more so as the day before the Germans could not be restrained from casting weapons at our men. He thought he should not without great danger send to him as ambassador one of his Roman officers, and should expose him to savage men. It seemed therefore most proper to send to him C. Valerius Procillus, the son of C. Valerius Caburus, a young man of the highest courage and accomplishments (whose father had been presented with the freedom of the city by C. Valerius Flaccus), both on account of his fidelity and on account of his knowledge of the Gallic language, which Ariovistus, by long practice, now spoke fluently; and because in his case the Germans would have no motive for committing violence; and as his colleague M. Mettius, who had shared the hospitality of Ariovistus. He commissioned them to learn what Ariovistus had to say, and to report to him. But when Ariovistus saw them before him in his camp, he cried out in the presence of his army, “Why were they come to him? was it for the purpose of acting as spies?” He stopped them when attempting to speak, and cast them into chains.
The same day he moved his camp forward and pitched under a hill six miles from Caesar’s camp. The day following he led his forces past Caesar’s camp, and encamped two miles beyond him; with this design—that he might cut off Caesar from, the corn and provisions which might be conveyed to him from the Sequani and the Aedui. For five successive days from that day, Caesar drew out his forces before the camp, and put them in battle order, that, if Ariovistus should be willing to engage in battle, an opportunity might not be wanting to him. Ariovistus all this time kept his army in camp: but engaged daily in cavalry skirmishes. The method of battle in which the Germans had practised themselves was this. There were 6000 horse, and as many very active and courageous foot, one of whom each of the horse selected out of the whole army for his own protection. By these foot they were constantly accompanied in their engagements; to these the horse retired; these on any emergency rushed forward; if anyone, upon receiving a very severe wound, had fallen from his horse, they stood around him: if it was necessary to advance farther: than usual, or to retreat more rapidly, so great, from practice, was their swiftness, that, supported by the manes of the horses, they could keep pace with their speed.
Perceiving that Ariovistus kept himself in camp, Caesar, that he might not any longer be cut off from provisions, chose a convenient position for a camp beyond that place in which the Germans had encamped, at about 600 paces from them, and having drawn up his army in three lines, marched to that place. He ordered the first and second lines to be under arms; the third to fortify the camp. This place was distant from the enemy about 600 paces, as has been stated. Thither Ariovistus sent light troops, about 16,000 men in number, with all his cavalry; which forces were to intimidate our men, and hinder them in their fortification. Caesar nevertheless, as he had before arranged, ordered two lines to drive off the enemy: the third to execute the work. The camp being fortified, he left there two legions and a portion of the auxiliaries; and led back the other four legions into the larger camp.
The next day, according to his custom, Caesar led out his forces from both camps, and having advanced a little from the larger one, drew up his line of battle, and gave the enemy an opportunity of fighting. When he found that they did not even then come out from their entrenchments, he led back his army into camp about noon. Then at last Ariovistus sent part of his forces to attack the lesser camp. The battle was vigorously maintained on both sides till the evening. At sunset, after many wounds had been inflicted and received, Ariovistus led back his forces into camp. When Caesar inquired of his prisoners, wherefore Ariovistus did not come to an engagement, he discovered this to be the reason—that among the Germans it was the custom for their matrons to pronounce from lots and divination whether it were expedient that the battle should be engaged in or not; that they had said, “that it was not the will of heaven that the Germans should conquer, if they engaged in battle before the new moon.”
The day following, Caesar left what seemed sufficient as a guard for both camps; and then drew up all the auxiliaries in sight of the enemy, before the lesser camp, because he was not very powerful in the number of legionary soldiers, considering the number of the enemy; that thereby he might make use of his auxiliaries for appearance. He himself, having drawn up his army in three lines, advanced to the camp of the enemy. Then at last of necessity the Germans drew their forces out of camp, and disposed them canton by canton, at equal distances, the Harudes, Marcomanni, Tribocci, Vangiones, Nemetes, Sedusii, Suevi; and surrounded their whole army with their chariots and wagons, that no hope might be left in flight. On these they placed their women, who, with dishevelled hair and in tears, entreated the soldiers, as they went forward to battle, not to deliver them into slavery to the Romans.
Caesar appointed over each legion a lieutenant and a questor, that everyone might have them as witnesses of his valour. He himself began the battle at the head of the right wing, because he had observed that part of the enemy to be the least strong. Accordingly our men, upon the signal being given, vigorously made an attack upon the enemy, and the enemy so suddenly and rapidly rushed forward, that there was no time for casting the javelins at them. Throwing aside therefore their javelins, they fought with swords hand to hand. But the Germans, according to their custom, rapidly forming a phalanx, sustained the attack of our swords. There were found very many of our soldiers who leaped upon the phalanx, and with their hands tore away the shields, and wounded the enemy from above. Although the army of the enemy was routed on the left wing and put to flight, they still pressed heavily on our men from the right wing, by the great number of their troops. On observing which, P. Crassus, a young man, who commanded the cavalry—as he was more disengaged than those who were employed in the fight—sent the third line as a relief to our men who were in distress.
Thereupon the engagement was renewed, and all the enemy turned their backs, nor did they cease to flee until they arrived at the river Rhine, about fifty miles from that place. There some few, either relying on their strength, endeavoured to swim over, or, finding boats, procured their safety. Among the latter was Ariovistus, who meeting with a small vessel tied to the bank, escaped in it: our horse pursued and slew all the rest of them. Ariovistus had two wives, one a Suevan by nation, whom he had brought with him from home; the other a Norican, the sister of king Vocion, whom he had married in Gaul, she having been sent thither for that purpose by her brother. Both perished in that flight. Of their two daughters, one was slain, the other captured. C. Valerius Procillus, as he was being dragged by his guards in the flight, bound with a triple chain, fell into the hands of Caesar himself, as he was pursuing the enemy with his cavalry. This circumstance indeed afforded Caesar no less pleasure than the victory itself; because he saw a man of the first rank in the province of Gaul, his intimate acquaintance and friend, rescued from the hand of the enemy, and restored to him, and that fortune had not diminished aught of the joy and exultation of that day by his destruction. He [Procillus] said that in his own presence the lots had been thrice consulted respecting him, whether he should immediately be put to death by fire, or be reserved for another time: that by the favour of the lots he was uninjured. M. Mettius, also, was found and brought back to him [Caesar].
This battle having been reported beyond the Rhine, the Suevi, who had come to the banks of that river, began to return home, when the Ubii, who dwelt nearest to the Rhine, pursuing them, while much alarmed, slew a great number of them. Caesar having concluded two very important wars in one campaign, conducted his army into winter quarters among the Sequani, a little earlier than the season of the year required. He appointed Labienus over the winter quarters, and set out in person for Hither Gaul to hold the assizes.
While Caesar was in winter quarters in Hither Gaul, as we have shown above, frequent reports were brought to him, and he was also informed by letters from Labienus, that all the Belgae, who we have said are a third part of Gaul, were entering into a confederacy against the Roman people, and giving hostages to one another; that the reasons of the confederacy were these—first, because they feared that, after all Celtic Gaul was subdued, our army would be led against them; secondly, because they were instigated by several of the Gauls; some of whom as [on the one hand] they had been unwilling that the Germans should remain any longer in Gaul, so [on the other] they were dissatisfied that the army of the Roman people should pass the winter in it, and settle there; and others of them, from a natural instability and fickleness of disposition, were anxious for a revolution; the Belgae were instigated by several, also, because the government in Gaul was generally seized upon by the more powerful persons and by those who had the means of hiring troops, and they could less easily effect this object under our dominion.
Alarmed by these tidings and letters, Caesar levied two new legions in Hither Gaul, and, at the beginning of summer, sent Q. Pedius, his lieutenant, to conduct them further into Gaul. He himself, as soon as there began to be plenty of forage, came to the army. He gives a commission to the Senones and the other Gauls who were neighbours of the Belgae, to learn what is going on amongst them [i.e. the Belgae], and inform him of these matters. These all uniformly reported that troops were being raised, and that an army was being collected in one place. Then, indeed, he thought that he ought not to hesitate about proceeding towards them, and having provided supplies, moves his camp, and in about fifteen days arrives at the territories of the Belgae.
As he arrived there unexpectedly and sooner than anyone anticipated, the Remi, who are the nearest of the Belgae to Celtic Gaul, sent to him Iccius and Antebrogius, two of the principal persons of the state, as their ambassadors: to tell him that they surrendered themselves and all their possessions to the protection and disposal of the Roman people: and that they had neither combined with the rest of the Belgae, nor entered into any confederacy against the Roman people: and were prepared to give hostages, to obey his commands, to receive him into their towns, and to aid him with corn and other things; that all the rest of the Belgae were in arms; and that the Germans, who dwell on this side the Rhine, had joined themselves to them; and that so great was the infatuation of them all that they could not restrain even the Suessiones, their own brethren and kinsmen, who enjoy the same rights, and the same laws, and who have one government and one magistracy in common with themselves, from uniting with them.
When Caesar inquired of them what states were in arms, how powerful they were, and what they could do in war, he received the following information: that the greater part of the Belgae were sprung from the Germans, and that having crossed the Rhine at an early period, they had settled there, on account of the fertility of the country, and had driven out the Gauls who inhabited those regions; and that they were the only people who, in the memory of our fathers, when all Gaul was overrun, had prevented the Teutones and the Cimbri from entering their territories; the effect of which was that, from the recollection of those events, they assumed to themselves great authority and haughtiness in military matters. The Remi said that they had known accurately everything respecting their number, because, being united to them by neighbourhood and by alliances, they had learnt what number each state had in the general council of the Belgae promised for that war. That the Bellovaci were the most powerful amongst them in valour, influence, and number of men; that these could muster 100,000 armed men, and had promised 60,000 picked men out of that number, and demanded for themselves the command of the whole war. That the Suessiones were their nearest neighbours and possessed a very extensive and fertile country; that among them, even in our own memory, Divitiacus, the most powerful man of all Gaul, had been king; who had held the government of a great part of these regions, as well as of Britain; that their king at present was Galba; that the direction of the whole war was conferred by the consent of all upon him, on account of his integrity and prudence; that they had twelve towns; that they had promised 50,000 armed men; and that the Nervii, who are reckoned the most warlike among them, and are situated at a very great distance, had promised as many; the Atrebates, 15,000; the Ambiani, 10,000; the Morini, 25,000; the Menapii, 9000; the Caleti, 10,000; the Velocasses and the Veromandui as many; the Aduatuci, 19,000; that the Condrusi, the Eburones, the Caeraesi, the Paemani, who are called by the common name of Germans, had promised, they thought, to the number of 40,000.
Caesar, having encouraged the Remi, and addressed them courteously, ordered the whole senate to assemble before him, and the children of their chief men to be brought to him as hostages; all which commands they punctually performed by the day appointed. He, addressing himself to Divitiacus the Aeduan, with great earnestness, points out how much it concerns the republic and their common security, that the forces of the enemy should be divided, so that it might not be necessary to engage with so large a number at one time. He asserts that this might be effected if the Aedui would lead their forces into the territories of the Bellovaci, and begin to lay waste their country. With these instructions he dismissed him from his presence. After he perceived that all the forces of the Belgae, which had been collected in one place, were approaching towards him, and learnt from the scouts whom he had sent out, and also from the Remi, that they were not then far distant, he hastened to lead his army over the Aisne, which is on the borders of the Remi, and there pitched his camp. This position fortified one side of his camp by the banks of the river, rendered the country which lay in his rear secure from the enemy, and furthermore ensured that provisions might without danger be brought to him by the Remi and the rest of the states. Over that river was a bridge: there he places a guard; and on the other side of the river he leaves Q. Titurus Sabinus, his lieutenant, with six cohorts. He orders him to fortify a camp with a rampart twelve feet in height, and a trench eighteen feet in breadth.
There was a town of the Remi, by name Bibrax, eight miles distant from this camp. This the Belgae on their march began to attack with great vigour. The assault was with difficulty sustained for that day. The Gauls’ mode of besieging is the same as that of the Belgae: when after having drawn a large number of men around the whole of the fortifications, stones have begun to be cast against the wall on all sides, and the wall has been stripped of its defenders, then, forming a testudo, they advance to the gates and undermine the wall: which was easily effected on this occasion; for while so large a number were casting stones and darts, no one was able to maintain his position upon the wall. When night had put an end to the assault, Iccius, who was then in command of the town, one of the Remi, a man of the highest rank and influence amongst his people, and one of those who had come to Caesar as ambassador to sue for a peace, sends messengers to him, to report “That, unless assistance were sent to him, he could not hold out any longer.”
Thither immediately after midnight, Caesar, using as guides the same persons who had come to him as messengers from Iccius, sends some Numidian and Cretan archers, and some Balearian slingers as a relief to the townspeople, by whose arrival both a desire to resist together with the hope of making good their defence was infused into the Remi, and, for the same reason, the hope of gaining the town abandoned the enemy. Therefore, after staying a short time before the town, and laying waste the country of the Remi, when all the villages and buildings which they could approach had been burnt, they hastened with all their forces to the camp of Caesar, and encamped within less than two miles of it; and their camp, as was indicated by the smoke and fires, extended more than eight miles in breadth.
Caesar at first determined to decline a battle, as well on account of the great number of the enemy as their distinguished reputation for valour: daily, however, in cavalry actions, he strove to ascertain by frequent trials what the enemy could effect by their prowess and what our men would dare. When he perceived that our men were not inferior, as the place before the camp was naturally convenient and suitable for marshalling an army (since the hill where the camp was pitched, rising gradually from the plain, extended forward in breadth as far as the space which the marshalled army could occupy, and had steep declines of its side in either direction, and gently sloping in front gradually sank to the plain), on either side of that hill he drew a cross trench of about four hundred paces, and at the extremities of that trench built forts, and placed there his military engines, lest, after he had marshalled his army, the enemy, since they were so powerful in point of number, should be able to surround his men in the flank, while fighting. After doing this, and leaving in the camp the two legions which he had last raised, that, if there should be any occasion, they might be brought as a reserve, he formed the other six legions in order of battle before the camp. The enemy, likewise, had drawn up their forces which they had brought out of the camp.
There was a marsh of no great extent between our army and that of the enemy. The latter were waiting to see if our men would pass this; our men, also, were ready in arms to attack them while disordered, if the first attempt to pass should be made by them. In the meantime battle was commenced between the two armies by a cavalry action. When neither army began to pass the marsh, Caesar, upon the skirmishes of the horse proving favourable to our men, led back his forces into the camp. The enemy immediately hastened from that place to the river Aisne, which it has been stated was behind our camp. Finding a ford there, they endeavoured to lead a part of their forces over it; with the design, that, if they could, they might carry by storm the fort which Q. Titurius, Caesar’s lieutenant, commanded, and might cut off the bridge; but, if they could not do that, they should lay waste the lands of the Remi, which were of great use to us in carrying on the war, and might hinder our men from foraging.
Caesar, being apprised of this by Titurius, leads all his cavalry and light-armed Numidians, slingers and archers, over the bridge, and hastens towards them. There was a severe struggle in that place. Our men, attacking in the river the disordered enemy, slew a great part of them. By the immense number of their missiles they drove back the rest, who in a most courageous manner were attempting to pass over their bodies, and surrounded with their cavalry, and cut to pieces those who had first crossed the river. The enemy, when they perceived that their hopes had deceived them both with regard to their taking the town by storm and also their passing the river, and did not see our men advance to a more disadvantageous place for the purpose of fighting, and when provisions began to fail them, having called a council, determined that it was best for each to return to his country, and resolved to assemble from all quarters to defend those into whose territories the Romans should first march an army; that they might contend in their own rather than in a foreign country, and might enjoy the stores of provisions which they possessed at home. Together with other causes, this consideration also led them to that resolution, viz.: that they had learnt that Divitiacus and the Aedui were approaching the territories of the Bellovaci. And it was impossible to persuade the latter to stay any longer, or to deter them from conveying succour to their own people.
That matter being determined on, marching out of their camp at the second watch, with great noise and confusion, in no fixed order, nor under any command, since each sought for himself the foremost place in the journey, and hastened to reach home, they made their departure appear very like a flight. Caesar, immediately learning this through his scouts, but fearing an ambuscade, because he had not yet discovered for what reason they were departing, kept his army and cavalry within the camp. At daybreak, the intelligence having been confirmed by the scouts, he sent forward his cavalry to harass their rear; and gave the command of it to two of his lieutenants, Q. Pedius, and L. Aurunculeius Cotta. He ordered T. Labienus, another of his lieutenants, to follow them closely with three legions. These, attacking their rear, and pursuing them for many miles, slew a great number of them as they were fleeing; while those in the rear with whom they had come up, halted, and bravely sustained the attack of our soldiers; the van, because they appeared to be removed from danger, and were not restrained by any necessity or command, as soon as the noise was heard, broke their ranks, and, to a man, rested their safety in flight. Thus without any risk to themselves, our men killed as great a number of them as the length of the day allowed; and at sunset desisted from the pursuit, and betook themselves into the camp, as they had been commanded.
On the day following, before the enemy could recover from their terror and flight, Caesar led his army into the territories of the Suessiones, which are next to the Remi, and having accomplished a long march, hastens to the town named Noviodunum. Having attempted to take it by storm on his march, because he heard that it was destitute of sufficient defenders, he was not able to carry it by assault, on account of the breadth of the ditch and the height of the wall, though few were defending it. Therefore, having fortified the camp, he began to bring up the vineae, and to provide whatever things were necessary for the storm. In the meantime, the whole body of the Suessiones, after their flight, came the next night into the town. The vineae having been quickly brought up against the town, a mound thrown up, and towers built, the Gauls, amazed by the greatness of the works, such as they had neither seen nor heard of before, and struck, also, by the despatch of the Romans, send ambassadors to Caesar respecting a surrender, and succeed in consequence of the Remi requesting that they [the Suessiones] might be spared.
Caesar, having received as hostages the first men of the state, and even the two sons of king Galba himself; and all the arms in the town having been delivered up, admitted the Suessiones to a surrender, and led his army against the Bellovaci. Who, when they had conveyed themselves and all their possessions into the town called Bratuspantium, and Caesar with his army was about five miles distant from that town, all the old men, going out of the town, began to stretch out their hands to Caesar, and to intimate by their voice that they would throw themselves on his protection and power, nor would contend in arms against the Roman people. In like manner, when he had come up to the town, and there pitched his camp, the boys and the women from the wall, with outstretched hands, after their custom, begged peace from the Romans.
For these Divitiacus pleads (for after the departure of the Belgae, having dismissed the troops of the Aedui, he had returned to Caesar). “The Bellovaci had at all times been in the alliance and friendship of the Aeduan state; that they had revolted from the Aedui and made war upon the Roman people, being urged thereto by their nobles, who said that the Aedui, reduced to slavery by Caesar, were suffering every indignity and insult. That they who had been the leaders of that plot, because they perceived how great a calamity they had brought upon the state, had fled into Britain. That not only the Bellovaci, but also the Aedui, entreated him to use his accustomed clemency and lenity towards them [the Bellovaci]: which if he did, he would increase the influence of the Aedui among all the Belgae, by whose succour and resources they had been accustomed to support themselves whenever any wars occurred.”
Caesar said that on account of his respect for Divitiacus and the Aeduans, he would receive them into his protection, and would spare them; but, because the state was of great influence among the Belgae, and preeminent in the number of its population, he demanded 600 hostages. When these were delivered, and all the arms in the town collected, he went from that place into the territories of the Ambiani, who, without delay, surrendered themselves and all their possessions. Upon their territories bordered the Nervii, concerning whose character and customs when Caesar inquired he received the following information:—That “there was no access for merchants to them; that they suffered no wine and other things tending to luxury to be imported; because they thought that by their use the mind is enervated and the courage impaired: that they were a savage people and of great bravery: that they upbraided and condemned the rest of the Belgae who had surrendered themselves to the Roman people and thrown aside their national courage: that they openly declared they would neither send ambassadors, nor accept any condition of peace.”
After he had made three days’ march through their territories, he discovered from some prisoners, that the river Sambre was not more than ten miles from his camp; that all the Nervii had stationed themselves on the other side of that river, and together with the Atrebates and the Veromandui, their neighbours, were there awaiting the arrival of the Romans; for they had persuaded both these nations to try the same fortune of war as themselves: that the forces of the Aduatuci were also expected by them, and were on their march; that they had put their women, and those who through age appeared useless for war, in a place to which there was no approach for an army, on account of the marshes.
Having learnt these things, he sends forward scouts and centurions to choose a convenient place for the camp. And as a great many of the surrounding Belgae and other Gauls, following Caesar, marched with him; some of these, as was afterwards learnt from the prisoners, having accurately observed, during those days, the army’s method of marching, went by night to the Nervii, and informed them that a great number of baggage-trains passed between the several legions, and that there would be no difficulty, when the first legion had come into the camp, and the other legions were at a great distance, to attack that legion while under baggage, which being routed, and the baggage-train seized, it would come to pass that the other legions would not dare to stand their ground. It added weight also to the advice of those who reported that circumstance, that the Nervii, from early times, because they were weak in cavalry (for not even at this time do they attend to it, but accomplish by their infantry whatever they can), in order that they might the more easily obstruct the cavalry of their neighbours if they came upon them for the purpose of plundering, having cut young trees, and bent them, by means of their numerous branches extending on to the sides, and the quick-briars and thorns springing up between them, had made these hedges present a fortification like a wall, through which it was not only impossible to enter, but even to penetrate with the eye. Since therefore the march of our army would be obstructed by these things, the Nervii thought that the advice ought not to be neglected by them.
The nature of the ground which our men had chosen for the camp was this: A hill, declining evenly from the top, extended to the river Sambre, which we have mentioned above: from this river there arose a second hill of like ascent, on the other side and opposite to the former, and open from about 200 paces at the lowest part; but in the upper part, woody, (so much so) that it was not easy to see through it into the interior. Within those woods the enemy kept themselves in concealment; a few troops of horse-soldiers appeared on the open ground, along the river. The depth of the river was about three feet.
Caesar, having sent his cavalry on before, followed close after them with all his forces; but the plan and order of the march was different from that which the Belgae had reported to the Nervii. For as he was approaching the enemy Caesar, according to his custom, led on [as the van] six legions unencumbered by baggage; behind them he had placed the baggage-trains of the whole army; then the two legions which had been last raised closed the rear, and were a guard for the baggage-train. Our horse, with the slingers and archers, having passed the river, commenced action with the cavalry of the enemy. While they from time to time betook themselves into the woods to their companions, and again made an assault out of the wood upon our men, who did not dare to follow them in their retreat further than the limit to which the plain and open parts extended, in the meantime the six legions which had arrived first, having measured out the work, began to fortify the camp. When the first part of the baggage-train of our army was seen by those who lay hid in the woods, which had been agreed on among them as the time for commencing action, as soon as they had arranged their line of battle and formed their ranks within the woods, and had encouraged one another, they rushed out suddenly with all their forces and made an attack upon our horse. The latter being easily routed and thrown into confusion, the Nervii ran down to the river with such incredible speed that they seemed to be in the woods, the river, and close upon us almost at the same time. And with the same speed they hastened up the hill to our camp and to those who were employed in the works.
Caesar had everything to do at one time: the standard to be displayed, which was the sign when it was necessary to run to arms; the signal to be given by the trumpet; the soldiers to be called off from the works; those who had proceeded some distance for the purpose of seeking materials for the rampart, to be summoned; the order of battle to be formed; the soldiers to be encouraged; the watchword to be given. A great part of these arrangements was prevented by the shortness of time and the sudden approach and charge of the enemy. Under these difficulties two things proved of advantage; first the skill and experience of the soldiers, because, having been trained by former engagements, they could suggest to themselves what ought to be done, as conveniently as receive information from others; and secondly that Caesar had forbidden his several lieutenants to depart from the works and their respective legions, before the camp was fortified. These, on account of the near approach and the speed of the enemy, did not then wait for any command from Caesar, but of themselves executed whatever appeared proper.
Caesar, having given the necessary orders, hastened to and fro into whatever quarter fortune carried him to animate the troops, and came to the tenth legion. Having encouraged the soldiers with no further speech than that “they should keep up the remembrance of their wonted valour, and not be confused in mind, but valiantly sustain the assault of the enemy”; as the latter were not farther from them than the distance to which a dart could be cast, he gave the signal for commencing battle. And having gone to another quarter for the purpose of encouraging the soldiers, he finds them fighting. Such was the shortness of the time, and so determined was the mind of the enemy on fighting, that time was wanting not only for affixing the military insignia, but even for putting on the helmets and drawing off the covers from the shields. To whatever part anyone by chance came from the works (in which he had been employed), and whatever standards he saw first, at these he stood, lest in seeking his own company he should lose the time for fighting.
The army having been marshalled, rather as the nature of the ground and the declivity of the hill and the exigency of the time, than as the method and order of military matters required; whilst the legions in the different places were withstanding the enemy, some in one quarter, some in another, and the view was obstructed by the very thick hedges intervening, as we have before remarked, neither could proper reserves be posted, nor could the necessary measures be taken in each part, nor could all the commands be issued by one person. Therefore, in such an unfavourable state of affairs, various events of fortune followed.
The soldiers of the ninth and tenth legions, as they had been stationed on the left part of the army, casting their weapons, speedily drove the Atrebates (for that division had been opposed to them), who were breathless with running and fatigue, and worn out with wounds, from the higher ground into the river; and following them as they were endeavouring to pass it, slew with their swords a great part of them while impeded (therein). They themselves did not hesitate to pass the river; and having advanced to a disadvantageous place, when the battle was renewed, they nevertheless again put to flight the enemy, who had returned and were opposing them. In like manner, in another quarter two different legions, the eleventh and the eighth, having routed the Veromandui, with whom they had engaged, were fighting from the higher ground upon the very banks of the river. But, almost the whole camp on the front and on the left side being then exposed, since the twelfth legion was posted in the right wing, and the seventh at no great distance from it, all the Nervii, in a very close body, with Boduognatus, who held the chief command, as their leader, hastened towards that place; and part of them began to surround the legions on their unprotected flank, part to make for the highest point of the encampment.
At the same time our horsemen, and light-armed infantry, who had been with those who, as I have related, were routed by the first assault of the enemy, as they were betaking themselves into the camp, met the enemy face to face, and again sought flight into another quarter; and the camp-followers who from the Decuman Gate and from the highest ridge of the hill had seen our men pass the river as victors, when, after going out for the purposes of plundering, they looked back and saw the enemy parading in our camp, committed themselves precipitately to flight; at the same time there arose the cry and shout of those who came with the baggage-train; and they (affrighted) were carried some one way, some another. By all these circumstances the cavalry of the Treviri were much alarmed (whose reputation for courage is extraordinary among the Gauls, and who had come to Caesar, being sent by their state as auxiliaries), and, when they saw our camp filled with a large number of the enemy, the legions hard pressed and almost held surrounded, the camp-retainers, horsemen, slingers, and Numidians fleeing on all sides divided and scattered, they, despairing of our affairs, hastened home, and related to their state that the Romans were routed and conquered, and that the enemy were in possession of their camp and baggage-train.
Caesar proceeded, after encouraging the tenth legion, to the right wing; where he perceived that his men were hard pressed, and that in consequence of the standards of the twelfth legion being collected together in one place, the crowded soldiers were a hindrance to themselves in the fight; that all the centurions of the fourth cohort were slain, and the standard-bearer killed, the standard itself lost, almost all the centurions of the other cohorts either wounded or slain, and among them the chief centurion of the legion, P. Sextius Baculus, a very valiant man, who was so exhausted by many and severe wounds, that he was already unable to support himself; he likewise perceived that the rest were slackening their efforts, and that some, deserted by those in the rear, were retiring from the battle and avoiding the weapons; that the enemy on the other hand, though advancing from the lower ground, were not relaxing in front, and were at the same time pressing hard on both flanks; he also perceived that the affair was at a crisis, and that there was not any reserve which could be brought up; having therefore snatched a shield from one of the soldiers in the rear (for he himself had come without a shield), he advanced to the front of the line, and addressing the centurions by name, and encouraging the rest of the soldiers, he ordered them to carry forward the standards, and extend the companies, that they might the more easily use their swords. On his arrival, as hope was brought to the soldiers and their courage restored, whilst everyone for his own part, in the sight of his general, desired to exert his utmost energy, the impetuosity of the enemy was a little checked.
Caesar, when he perceived that the seventh legion, which stood close by him, was also hard pressed by the enemy, directed the tribunes of the soldiers to effect a junction of the legions gradually, and make their charge upon the enemy with a double front; which having been done, since they brought assistance the one to the other, nor feared lest their rear should be surrounded by the enemy, they began to stand their ground more boldly, and to fight more courageously. In the meantime, the soldiers of the two legions which had been in the rear of the army, as a guard for the baggage-train, upon the battle being reported to them, quickened their pace, and were seen by the enemy on the top of the hill; and Titus Labienus, having gained possession of the camp of the enemy, and observed from the higher ground what was going on in our camp, sent the tenth legion as a relief to our men, who, when they had learnt from the flight of the horse and the sutlers in what position the affair was, and in how great danger the camp and the legion and the commander were involved, left undone nothing which tended to despatch.
By their arrival, so great a change of matters was made, that our men, even those who had fallen down exhausted with wounds, leant on their shields, and renewed the fight: then the camp-retainers, though unarmed, seeing the enemy completely dismayed, attacked them though armed; the horsemen too, that they might by their valour blot out the disgrace of their flight, thrust themselves before the legionary soldiers in all parts of the battle. But the enemy, even in the last hope of safety, displayed such great courage that when the foremost of them had fallen, the next stood upon them prostrate, and fought from their bodies; when these were overthrown, and their corpses heaped up together, those who survived cast their weapons against our men thence, as from a mound, and returned our darts which had fallen between the armies; so that it ought not to be concluded, that men of such great courage had injudiciously dared to pass a very broad river, ascend very high banks, and come up to a very disadvantageous place; since their greatness of spirit had rendered these actions easy, although in themselves very difficult.
This battle being ended, and the nation and name of the Nervii being almost reduced to annihilation, their old men, whom together with the boys and women we have stated to have been collected together in the fenny places and marshes, on this battle having been reported to them, since they were convinced that nothing was an obstacle to the conquerors, and nothing safe to the conquered, sent ambassadors to Caesar by the consent of all who remained, and surrendered themselves to him; and in recounting the calamity of their state, said that their senators were reduced from 600 to three; that from 60,000 men they were reduced to scarcely 500 who could bear arms; whom Caesar, that he might appear to use compassion towards the wretched and the suppliant, most carefully spared; and ordered them to enjoy their own territories and towns, and commanded their neighbours that they should restrain themselves and their dependants from offering injury or outrage to them.
When the Aduatuci, of whom we have written above, were coming with all their forces to the assistance of the Nervii, upon this battle being reported to them, they returned home after they were on the march; deserting all their towns and forts, they conveyed together all their possessions into one town, eminently fortified by nature. While this town had on all sides around it very high rocks and precipices, there was left on one side a gently ascending approach, of not more than 200 feet in width; which place they had fortified with a very lofty double wall: besides, they had placed stones of great weight and sharpened stakes upon the walls. They were descended from the Cimbri and Teutones, who, when they were marching into our province and Italy, having deposited on this side the river Rhine such of their baggage-trains as they could not drive or convey with them, left 6000 of their men as a guard and defence for them. These having, after the destruction of their countrymen, been harassed for many years by their neighbours, while one time they waged war offensively, and at another resisted it when waged against them, concluded a peace with the consent of all, and chose this place as their settlement.
And on the first arrival of our army they made frequent sallies from the town, and contended with our men in trifling skirmishes: afterwards, when hemmed in by a rampart of twelve feet in height, and fifteen miles in circuit, they kept themselves within the town. When, vineae having been brought up and a mound raised, they observed that a tower also was being built at a distance, they at first began to mock the Romans from their wall, and to taunt them with the following speeches. “For what purpose was so vast a machine constructed at so great a distance?” “With what hands,” or “with what strength did they, especially as they were men of such very small stature” (for our shortness of stature, in comparison with the great size of their bodies, is generally a subject of much contempt to the men of Gaul), “trust to place against their walls a tower of such great weight.”
But when they saw that it was being moved, and was approaching their walls, startled by the new and unaccustomed sight, they sent ambassadors to Caesar to treat about peace; who spoke in the following manner: “That they did not believe the Romans waged war without divine aid, since they were able to move forward machines of such a height with so great speed, and thus fight from close quarters: that they resigned themselves and all their possessions to [Caesar’s] disposal: that they begged and earnestly entreated one thing, viz., that if perchance, agreeably to his clemency and humanity, which they had heard of from others, he should resolve that the Aduatuci were to be spared, he would not deprive them of their arms; that all their neighbours were enemies to them and envied their courage, from whom they could not defend themselves if their arms were delivered up: that it was better for them, if they should be reduced to that state, to suffer any fate from the Roman people, than to be tortured to death by those among whom they had been accustomed to rule.”
To these things Caesar replied, “That he, in accordance with his custom, rather than owing to their desert, should spare the state, if they should surrender themselves before the battering-ram should touch the wall; but that there was no condition of surrender, except upon their arms being delivered up; that he should do to them that which he had done in the case of the Nervii, and would command their neighbours not to offer any injury to those who had surrendered to the Roman people.” The matter being reported to their countrymen, they said that they would execute his commands. Having cast a very large quantity of their arms from the wall into the trench which was before the town, so that the heaps of arms almost equalled the top of the wall and the rampart, and nevertheless having retained and concealed, as we afterwards discovered, about a third part in the town, the gates were opened, and they enjoyed peace for that day.
Towards evening Caesar ordered the gates to be shut, and the soldiers to go out of the town, lest the townspeople should receive any injury from them by night. They [the Aduatuci], by a design before entered into, as we afterwards understood, because they believed that, as a surrender had been made, our men would dismiss their guards, or at least would keep watch less carefully, partly with those arms which they had retained and concealed, partly with shields made of bark or interwoven wickers, which they had hastily covered over with skins (as the shortness of time required) in the third watch, suddenly made a sally from the town with all their forces in that direction in which the ascent to our fortifications seemed the least difficult. The signal having been immediately given by fires, as Caesar had previously commanded, a rush was made thither [i.e. by the Roman soldiers] from the nearest fort; and the battle was fought by the enemy as vigorously as it ought to be fought by brave men, in the last hope of safety, in a disadvantageous place, and against those who were throwing their weapons from a rampart and from towers; since all hope of safety depended on their courage alone. About 4000 of the men having been slain, the rest were forced back into the town. The day after, Caesar, after breaking open the gates, which there was no one then to defend, and sending in our soldiers, sold the whole spoil of that town. The number of 53,000 persons was reported to him by those who had bought them.
At the same time he was informed by P. Crassus, whom he had sent with one legion against the Veneti, the Unelli, the Osismii, the Curiosolitae, the Sesuvii, the Aulerci, and the Rhedones, which are maritime states, and touch upon the Atlantic ocean, that all these nations were brought under the dominion and power of the Roman people.
These things being achieved, and all Gaul being subdued, so high an opinion of this war was spread among the barbarians, that ambassadors were sent to Caesar by those nations who dwelt beyond the Rhine, to promise that they would give hostages and execute his commands. Which embassies Caesar, because he was hastening into Italy and Illyricum, ordered to return to him at the beginning of the following summer. He himself, having led his legions into winter-quarters among the Carnutes, the Andes, and the Turones, which states were close to those regions in which he had waged war, set out for Italy; and a thanksgiving of fifteen days was decreed for those achievements, upon receiving Caesar’s letter; an honour which before that time had been conferred on none.
When Caesar was setting out for Italy, he sent Servius Galba with the twelfth legion and part of the cavalry against the Nantuates, the Veragri, and Seduni, who extend from the territories of the Allobroges, and the lake of Geneva, and the river Rhone to the top of the Alps. The reason for sending him was, that he desired that the pass along the Alps, through which the Roman merchants had been accustomed to travel with great danger, and under great imposts, should be opened. He permitted him, if he thought it necessary, to station the legion in these places, for the purpose of wintering. Galba having fought some successful battles, and stormed several of their forts, upon ambassadors being sent to him from all parts and hostages given and a peace concluded, determined to station two cohorts among the Nantuates, and to winter in person with the other cohorts of that legion in a village of the Veragri, which is called Octodurus; and this village being situated in a valley, with a small plain annexed to it, is bounded on all sides by very high mountains. As this village was divided into two parts by a river, he granted one part of it to the Gauls, and assigned the other, which had been left by them unoccupied, to the cohorts to winter in. He fortified this latter part with a rampart and a ditch.
When several days had elapsed in winter quarters, and he had ordered corn to be brought in, he was suddenly informed by his scouts that all the people had gone off in the night from that part of the town which he had given up to the Gauls, and that the mountains which hung over it were occupied by a very large force of the Seduni and Veragri. It had happened for several reasons that the Gauls suddenly formed the design of renewing the war and cutting off that legion. First, because they despised a single legion, on account of its small number, and that not quite full (two cohorts having been detached, and several individuals being absent, who had been despatched for the purpose of seeking provision); then, likewise, because they thought that on account of the disadvantageous character of the situation, even their first attack could not be sustained by us when they would rush from the mountains into the valley, and discharge their weapons upon us. To this was added, that they were indignant that their children were torn from them under the title of hostages, and they were persuaded that the Romans designed to seize upon the summits of the Alps, and unite those parts to the neighbouring province of Gaul, not only to secure the passes, but also as a constant possession.
Having received these tidings, Galba, since the works of the winter quarters and the fortifications were not fully completed, nor was sufficient preparation made with regard to corn and other provisions (since, as a surrender had been made, and hostages received, he had thought he need entertain no apprehension of a war), speedily summoning a council, began to anxiously inquire their opinions. In which council, since so much sudden danger had happened contrary to the general expectation, and almost all the higher places were seen already covered with a multitude of armed men, nor could either troops come to their relief, or provisions be brought in, as the passes were blocked up by the enemy; safety being now nearly despaired of, some opinions of this sort were delivered: that, “leaving their baggage, and making a sally, they should hasten away for safety by the same routes by which they had come thither.” To the greater part, however, it seemed best, reserving that measure to the last, to await the issue of the matter, and to defend the camp.
A short time only having elapsed, so that time was scarcely given for arranging and executing those things which they had determined on, the enemy, upon the signal being given, rushed down upon our men from all parts, and discharged stones and darts upon our rampart. Our men at first, while their strength was fresh, resisted bravely, nor did they cast any weapon ineffectually from their higher station. As soon as any part of the camp, being destitute of defenders, seemed to be hard pressed, thither they ran, and brought assistance. But they were over-matched in this, that the enemy when wearied by the long continuance of the battle, went out of the action, and others with fresh strength came in their place; none of which things could be done by our men, owing to the smallness of their number; and not only was permission not given to the wearied Roman to retire from the fight, but not even to the wounded was liberty granted to quit the post where he had been stationed, and recover.
When they had now been fighting for more than six hours, without cessation, and not only strength, but even weapons were failing our men, and the enemy were pressing on more rigorously, and had begun to demolish the rampart and to fill up the trench, while our men were becoming exhausted, and the matter was now brought to the last extremity, P. Sextius Baculus, a centurion of the first rank, whom we have related to have been disabled by severe wounds in the engagement with the Nervii, and also C. Volusenus, a tribune of the soldiers, a man of great skill and valour, hasten to Galba, and assure him that the only hope of safety lay in making a sally, and trying the last resource. Whereupon, assembling the centurions, he quickly gives orders to the soldiers to discontinue the fight a short time, and only collect the weapons flung at them, and recruit themselves after their fatigue, and afterwards, upon the signal being given, sally forth from the camp, and place in their valour all their hope of safety.
They do what they were ordered; and, making a sudden sally from all the gates of the camp, leave the enemy the means neither of knowing what was taking place, nor of collecting themselves. Fortune thus taking a turn, our men surround on every side, and slay those who had entertained the hope of gaining the camp, and having killed more than the third part of an army of more than 30,000 men (which number of the barbarians it appeared certain had come up to our camp), put to flight the rest when panic-stricken, and do not suffer them to halt even upon the higher grounds. All the forces of the enemy being thus routed, and stripped of their arms, our men betake themselves to their camp and fortifications. Which battle being finished, inasmuch as Galba was unwilling to tempt fortune again, and remembered that he had come into winter quarters with one design, and saw that he had met with a different state of affairs; chiefly however urged by the want of corn and provision, having the next day burned all the buildings of that village, he hastens to return into the province; and as no enemy opposed or hindered his march, he brought the legion safe into the country of the Nantuates, thence into that of the Allobroges, and there wintered.
These things being achieved, while Caesar had every reason to suppose that Gaul was reduced to a state of tranquillity, the Belgae being overcome, the Germans expelled, the Seduni among the Alps defeated, and when he had, therefore, in the beginning of winter, set out for Illyricum, as he wished to visit those nations, and acquire a knowledge of their countries, a sudden war sprang up in Gaul. The occasion of that war was this: P. Crassus, a young man, had taken up his winter quarters with the seventh legion among the Andes, who border upon the Atlantic ocean. He, as there was a scarcity of corn in those parts, sent out some officers of cavalry and several military tribunes amongst the neighbouring states, for the purpose of procuring corn and provision; in which number T. Terrasidius was sent amongst the Esubii; M. Trebius Gallus amongst the Curiosolitae; Q. Velanius, with T. Silius, amongst the Veneti.
The influence of this state is by far the most considerable of any of the countries on the whole sea coast, because the Veneti both have a very great number of ships, with which they have been accustomed to sail to Britain, and thus excel the rest in their knowledge and experience of nautical affairs; and as only a few ports lie scattered along that stormy and open sea, of which they are in possession, they hold as tributaries almost all those who are accustomed to traffic in that sea. With them arose the beginning of the revolt by their detaining Silius and Velanius; for they thought that they should recover by their means the hostages which they had given to Crassus. The neighbouring people, led on by their influence (as the measures of the Gauls are sudden and hasty), detain Trebius and Terrasidius for the same motive; and quickly sending ambassadors, by means of their leading men, they enter into a mutual compact to do nothing except by general consent, and abide the same issue of fortune; and they solicit the other states to choose rather to continue in that liberty which they had received from their ancestors, than endure slavery under the Romans. All the sea coast being quickly brought over to their sentiments, they send a common embassy to P. Crassus to say, “If he wished to receive back his officers, let him send back to them their hostages.”
Caesar, being informed of these things by Crassus, since he was so far distant himself, orders ships of war to be built in the meantime on the river Loire, which flows into the ocean; rowers to be raised from the province; sailors and pilots to be provided. These matters being quickly executed, he himself, as soon as the season of the year permits, hastens to the army. The Veneti, and the other states also, being informed of Caesar’s arrival, when they reflected how great a crime they had committed, in that the ambassadors (a character which had amongst all nations ever been sacred and inviolable) had by them been detained and thrown into prison, resolve to prepare for a war in proportion to the greatness of their danger, and especially to provide those things which appertain to the service of a navy; with the greater confidence, inasmuch as they greatly relied on the nature of their situation. They knew that the passes by land were cut off by estuaries, that the approach by sea was most difficult, by reason of our ignorance of the localities, and the small number of the harbours, and they trusted that our army would not be able to stay very long among them, on account of the insufficiency of corn; and again, even if all these things should turn out contrary to their expectation, yet they were very powerful in their navy. They well understood that the Romans neither had any number of ships, nor were acquainted with the shallows, the harbours, or the islands of those parts where they would have to carry on the war; and that navigation was very different in a narrow sea from what it was in the vast and open ocean. Having come to this resolution, they fortify their towns, convey corn into them from the country parts, bring together as many ships as possible to Venetia, where it appeared Caesar would at first carry on the war. They unite to themselves as allies for that war, the Osismii, the Lexovii, the Nannetes, the Ambiliati, the Morini, the Diablintes, and the Menapii; and send for auxiliaries from Britain, which is situated over against those regions.
There were these difficulties which we have mentioned above, in carrying on the war, but many things, nevertheless, urged Caesar to that war; the open insult offered to the state in the detention of the Roman knights, the rebellion raised after surrendering, the revolt after hostages were given, the confederacy of so many states, but principally, lest if the conduct of this part was overlooked, the other nations should think that the same thing was permitted them. Wherefore, since he reflected that almost all the Gauls were fond of revolution, and easily and quickly excited to war; that all men likewise, by nature, love liberty and hate the condition of slavery, he thought he ought to divide and more widely distribute his army, before more states should join the confederation.
He therefore sends T. Labienus, his lieutenant, with the cavalry to the Treviri, who are nearest to the river Rhine. He charges him to visit the Remi and the other Belgians, and to keep them in their allegiance and repel the Germans (who were said to have been summoned by the Belgae to their aid) if they attempted to cross the river by force in their ships. He orders P. Crassus to proceed into Aquitania with twelve legionary cohorts and a great number of the cavalry, lest auxiliaries should be sent into Gaul by these states, and such great nations be united. He sends Q. Titurius Sabinus, his lieutenant, with three legions, among the Unelli, the Curiosolitae, and the Lexovii, to take care that their forces should be kept separate from the rest. He appoints D. Brutus, a young man, over the fleet and those Gallic vessels which he had ordered to be furnished by the Pictones and the Santoni, and the other provinces which remained at peace; and commands him to proceed towards the Veneti, as soon as he could. He himself hastens thither with the land forces.
The sites of their towns were generally such that, being placed on extreme points of land and on promontories, they neither had an approach by land when the tide had rushed in from the main ocean, which always happens twice in the space of twelve hours; nor by ships, because, upon the tide ebbing again, the ships were likely to be dashed upon the shoals. Thus, by either circumstance, was the storming of their towns rendered difficult; and if at any time perchance the Veneti, overpowered by the greatness of our works (the sea having been excluded by a mound and large dams, and the latter being made almost equal in height to the walls of the town), had begun to despair of their fortunes, bringing up a large number of ships, of which they had a very great quantity, they carried off all their property and betook themselves to the nearest towns; there they again defended themselves by the same advantages of situation. They did this the more easily during a great part of the summer, because our ships were kept back by storms, and the difficulty of sailing was very great in that vast and open sea, with its strong tides and its harbours far apart and exceedingly few in number.
For their ships were built and equipped after this manner. The keels were somewhat flatter than those of our ships, whereby they could more easily encounter the shallows and the ebbing of the tide: the prows were raised very high, and in like manner the sterns were adapted to the force of the waves and storms which they were formed to sustain. The ships were built wholly of oak, and designed to endure any force and violence whatever; the benches, which were made of planks a foot in breadth, were fastened by iron spikes of the thickness of a man’s thumb; the anchors were secured fast by iron chains instead of cables, and for sails they used skins and thin dressed leather. These were used either through their want of canvas and their ignorance of its application, or for this reason, which is more probable, that they thought that such storms of the ocean, and such violent gales of wind could not be resisted by sails, nor ships of such great burden be conveniently enough managed by them. The encounter of our fleet with these ships was of such a nature that our fleet excelled in speed alone, and the plying of the oars; other things, considering the nature of the place and the violence of the storms, were more suitable and better adapted on their side; for neither could our ships injure theirs with their beaks (so great was their strength), nor on account of their height was a weapon easily cast up to them; and for the same reason they were less readily locked in by rocks. To this was added, that whenever a storm began to rage and they ran before the wind, they both could weather the storm more easily and heave to securely in the shallows, and when left by the tide feared nothing from rocks and shelves: the risk of all which things was much to be dreaded by our ships.
Caesar, after taking many of their towns, perceiving that so much labour was spent in vain and that the flight of the enemy could not be prevented on the capture of their towns, and that injury could not be done them, he determined to wait for his fleet. As soon as it came up and was first seen by the enemy, about 220 of their ships, fully equipped and appointed with every kind of naval implement, sailed forth from the harbour, and drew up opposite to ours; nor did it appear clear to Brutus, who commanded the fleet, or to the tribunes of the soldiers and the centurions, to whom the several ships were assigned, what to do, or what system of tactics to adopt; for they knew that damage could not be done by their beaks; and that, although turrets were built on their decks, yet the height of the stems of the barbarian ships exceeded these; so that weapons could not be cast up from our lower position with sufficient effect, and those cast by the Gauls fell the more forcibly upon us. One thing provided by our men was of great service, viz. sharp hooks inserted into and fastened upon poles, of a form not unlike the hooks used in attacking town walls. When the ropes which fastened the sail-yards to the masts were caught by them and pulled, and our vessel vigorously impelled with the oars, they [the ropes] were severed; and when they were cut away, the yards necessarily fell down; so that as all the hope of the Gallic vessels depended on their sails and rigging, upon these being cut away, the entire management of the ships was taken from them at the same time. The rest of the contest depended on courage; in which our men decidedly had the advantage; and the more so because the whole action was carried on in the sight of Caesar and the entire army; so that no act, a little more valiant than ordinary, could pass unobserved, for all the hills and higher grounds, from which there was a near prospect of the sea, were occupied by our army.
The sail-yards of the enemy, as we have said, being brought down, although two and in some cases three ships of theirs surrounded each one of ours, the soldiers strove with the greatest energy to board the ships of the enemy; and, after the barbarians observed this taking place, as a great many of their ships were beaten, and as no relief for that evil could be discovered, they hastened to seek safety in flight. And, having now turned their vessels to that quarter in which the wind blew, so great a calm and lull suddenly arose, that they could not move out of their place, which circumstance, truly, was exceedingly opportune for finishing the business; for our men gave chase and took them one by one, so that very few out of all the number, and those by the intervention of night, arrived at the land, after the battle had lasted almost from the fourth hour till sunset.
By this battle the war with the Veneti and the whole of the sea coast was finished; for both all the youth, and all, too, of more advanced age, in whom there was any discretion or rank, had assembled in that battle; and they had collected in that one place whatever naval forces they had anywhere; and when these were lost, the survivors had no place to retreat to, nor means of defending their towns. They accordingly surrendered themselves and all their possessions to Caesar, on whom Caesar thought that punishment should be inflicted the more severely, in order that for the future the rights of ambassadors might be more carefully respected, by barbarians; having, therefore, put to death all their senate, he sold the rest for slaves.
While these things are going on amongst the Veneti, Q. Titurius Sabinus with those troops which he had received from Caesar, arrives in the territories of the Unelli. Over these people Viridovix ruled, and held the chief command of all those states which had revolted: from which he had collected a large and powerful army. And in those few days, the Aulerci and the Sexovii, having slain their senate because they would not consent to be promoters of the war, shut their gates against us and united themselves to Viridovix; a great multitude besides of desperate men and robbers assembled out of Gaul from all quarters, whom the hope of plundering and the love of fighting had called away from husbandry and their daily labour. Sabinus kept himself within his camp, which was in a position convenient for everything; while Viridovix encamped over against him at a distance of two miles, and daily bringing out his forces, gave him an opportunity of fighting; so that Sabinus had now not only come into contempt with the enemy, but also was somewhat taunted by the speeches of our soldiers; and furnished so great a suspicion of his cowardice that the enemy presumed to approach even to the very rampart of our camp. He adopted this conduct for the following reason: because he did not think that a lieutenant ought to engage in battle with so great a force, especially while he who held the chief command was absent, except on advantageous ground or some favourable circumstance presented itself.
After having established this suspicion of his cowardice, he selected a certain suitable and crafty Gaul, who was one of those whom he had with him as auxiliaries. He induces him by great gifts and promises to go over to the enemy; and informs him of what he wished to be done. Who, when he arrives amongst them as a deserter, lays before them the fears of the Romans; and informs them by what difficulties Caesar himself was harassed, and that the matter was not far removed from this—that Sabinus would the next night privately draw off his army out of the camp and set forth to Caesar, for the purpose of carrying him assistance, which, when they heard, they all cry out together that an opportunity of successfully conducting their enterprise ought not to be thrown away; that they ought to go to the Roman camp. Many things persuaded the Gauls to this measure; the delay of Sabinus during the previous days; the positive assertion of the pretended deserter; want of provisions, for a supply of which they had not taken the requisite precautions; the hope springing from the Venetic war; and also because in most cases men willingly believe what they wish. Influenced by these things, they do not discharge Viridovix and the other leaders from the council, before they gained permission from them to take up arms and hasten to our camp; which being granted, rejoicing as if victory were fully certain, they collected faggots and brushwood, with which to fill up the Roman trenches, and hasten to the camp.
The situation of the camp was a rising ground, gently sloping from the bottom for about a mile. Thither they proceeded with great speed (in order that as little time as possible might be given to the Romans to collect and arm themselves), and arrived quite out of breath. Sabinus having encouraged his men, gives them the signal, which they earnestly desired. While the enemy were encumbered by reason of the burdens which they were carrying, he orders a sally to be suddenly made from two gates of the camp. It happened, by the advantage of situation, by the unskilfulness and the fatigue of the enemy, by the valour of our soldiers, and their experience in former battles, that they could not stand one attack of our men, and immediately turned their backs; and our men with full vigour followed them while disordered, and slew a great number of them; the horse pursuing the rest, left but few, who escaped by flight. Thus at the same time, Sabinus was informed of the naval battle and Caesar of victory gained by Sabinus; and all the states immediately surrendered themselves to Titurius: for as the temper of the Gauls is impetuous and ready to undertake wars, so their mind is weak, and by no means resolute in enduring calamities.
About the same time, P. Crassus, when he had arrived in Aquitania (which, as has been before said, both from its extent of territory and the great number of its people, is to be reckoned a third part of Gaul), understanding that he was to wage war in these parts, where a few years before L. Valerius Praeconinus, the lieutenant, had been killed, and his army routed, and from which L. Manilius, the proconsul, had fled with the loss of his baggage, he perceived that no ordinary care must be used by him. Wherefore, having provided corn, procured auxiliaries and cavalry, and having summoned by name many valiant men from Tolosa, Carcaso, and Narbo, which are the states of the province of Gaul, that border on these regions [Aquitania], he led his army into the territories of the Sotiates. On his arrival being known, the Sotiates having brought together great forces and much cavalry, in which their strength principally lay, and assailing our army on the march, engaged first in a cavalry action, then when their cavalry was routed, and our men pursuing, they suddenly display their infantry forces, which they had placed in ambuscade in a valley. These attacked our men while disordered, and renewed the fight.
The battle was long and vigorously contested, since the Sotiates, relying on their former victories, imagined that the safety of the whole of Aquitania rested on their valour; and our men, on the other hand, desired it might be seen what they could accomplish without their general and without the other legions, under a very young commander; at length the enemy, worn out with wounds, began to turn their backs, and a great number of them being slain, Crassus began to besiege the principal town of the Sotiates on his march. Upon their valiantly resisting, he raised vineae and turrets. They at one time attempting a sally, at another forming mines to our rampart and vineae (at which the Aquitani are eminently skilled, because in many places amongst them there are copper mines); when they perceived that nothing could be gained by these operations through the perseverance of our men, they send ambassadors to Crassus, and entreat him to admit them to a surrender. Having obtained it, they, being ordered to deliver up their arms, comply.
And while the attention of our men is engaged in that matter, in another part Adcantuannus, who held the chief command, with 600 devoted followers, whom they call soldurii (the conditions of whose association are these—that they enjoy all the conveniences of life with those to whose friendship they have devoted themselves: if anything calamitous happen to them, either they endure the same destiny together with them, or commit suicide: nor hitherto, in the memory of men, has there been found anyone who, upon his being slain to whose friendship he had devoted himself, refused to die); Adcantuannus, [I say] endeavouring to make a sally with these, when our soldiers had rushed together to arms, upon a shout being raised at that part of the fortification, and a fierce battle had been fought there, was driven back into the town, yet he obtained from Crassus the indulgence that he should enjoy the same terms of surrender as the other inhabitants.
Crassus, having received their arms and hostages, marched into the territories of the Vocates and the Tarusates. But then, the barbarians being alarmed, because they had heard that a town fortified by the nature of the place and by art had been taken by us in a few days after our arrival there, began to send ambassadors into all quarters, to combine, to give hostages one to another, to raise troops. Ambassadors also are sent to those states of Hither Spain which are nearest to Aquitania, and auxiliaries and leaders are summoned from them; on whose arrival they proceed to carry on the war with great confidence, and with a great host of men. They who had been with Q. Sertorius the whole period of his war in Spain and were supposed to have very great skill in military matters, are chosen leaders. These, adopting the practice of the Roman people, begin to select advantageous places, to fortify their camp, to cut off our men from provisions, which, when Crassus observes, and likewise that his forces, on account of their small number, could not safely be separated; that the enemy both made excursions and beset the passes, and yet left sufficient guard for their camp; that on that account, corn and provision could not very conveniently be brought up to him, and that the number of the enemy was daily increased, he thought that he ought not to delay in giving battle. This matter being brought to a council, when he discovered that all thought the same thing, he appointed the next day for the fight.
Having drawn out all his forces at the break of day, and marshalled them in a double line, he posted the auxiliaries in the centre, and waited to see what measures the enemy would take. They, although on account of their great number and their ancient renown in war, and the small number of our men, they supposed they might safely fight, nevertheless considered it safer to gain the victory without any wound, by besetting the passes and cutting off the provisions: and if the Romans, on account of the want of corn, should begin to retreat, they intended to attack them while encumbered in their march and depressed in spirit as being assailed while under baggage. This measure being approved of by the leaders and the forces of the Romans drawn out, the enemy still kept themselves in their camp. Crassus having remarked this circumstance, since the enemy, intimidated by their own delay, and by the reputation15 had rendered our soldiers more eager for fighting, and the remarks of all were heard declaring that no longer ought delay to be made in going to the camp, after encouraging his men, he marches to the camp of the enemy, to the great gratification of his own troops.
There, while some were filling up the ditch, and others, by throwing a large number of darts, were driving the defenders from the rampart and fortifications, and the auxiliaries, on whom Crassus did not much rely in the battle, by supplying stones and weapons to the soldiers, and by conveying turf to the mound, presented the appearance and character of men engaged in fighting; while also the enemy were fighting resolutely and boldly, and their weapons, discharged from their higher position, fell with great effect; the horse, having gone round the camp of the enemy, reported to Crassus that the camp was not fortified with equal care on the side of the Decuman gate, and had an easy approach.
Crassus, having exhorted the commanders of the horse to animate their men by great rewards and promises, points out to them what he wished to have done. They, as they had been commanded, having brought out the four cohorts, which, as they had been left as a guard for the camp, were not fatigued by exertion, and having led them round by a somewhat longer way, lest they could be seen from the camp of the enemy, when the eyes and minds of all were intent upon the battle, quickly arrived at those fortifications which we have spoken of, and, having demolished these, stood in the camp of the enemy before they were seen by them, or it was known what was going on. And then, a shout being heard in that quarter, our men, their strength having been recruited (which usually occurs on the hope of victory), began to fight more vigorously. The enemy, surrounded on all sides, and all their affairs being despaired of, made great attempts to cast themselves down over the ramparts and to seek safety in flight. These the cavalry pursued over the very open plains, and after leaving scarcely a fourth part out of the number of 50,000, which it was certain had assembled out of Aquitania and from the Cantabri, returned late at night to the camp.
Having heard of this battle, the greatest part of Aquitania surrendered itself to Crassus, and of its own accord sent hostages, in which number were the Tarbelli, the Bigerriones, the Preciani, the Vocasates, the Tarusates, the Elurates, the Garites, the Ausci, the Garumni, the Sibuzates, the Cocosates. A few and those most remote nations, relying on the time of the year, because winter was at hand, neglected to do this.
About the same time Caesar, although the summer was nearly past, yet since, all Gaul being reduced, the Morini and the Menapii alone remained in arms, and had never sent ambassadors to him to make a treaty of peace, speedily led his army thither, thinking that that war might soon be terminated. They resolved to conduct the war on a very different method from the rest of the Gauls; for as they perceived that the greatest nations of Gaul who had engaged in war, had been routed and overcome, and as they possessed continuous ranges of forests and morasses, they removed themselves and all their property thither. When Caesar had arrived at the opening of these forests, and had begun to fortify his camp, and no enemy was in the meantime seen, while our men were dispersed on their respective duties, they suddenly rushed out from all parts of the forest, and made an attack on our men. The latter quickly took up arms and drove them back again to their forests; and having killed a great many, lost a few of their own men while pursuing them too far through those intricate places.
During the remaining days after this, Caesar began to cut down the forests; and that no attack might be made on the flank of the soldiers, while unarmed and not foreseeing it, he placed together (opposite to the enemy) all that timber which was cut down, and piled it up as a rampart on either flank. When a great space had been, with incredible speed, cleared in a few days, when the cattle of the enemy and the rear of their baggage-train were already seized by our men, and they themselves were seeking for the thickest parts of the forests, storms of such a kind came on that the work was necessarily suspended, and, through the continuance of the rains, the soldiers could not any longer remain in their tents. Therefore, having laid waste all their country, and having burnt their villages and houses, Caesar led back his army and stationed them in winter-quarters among the Aulerci and Lexovii, and the other states which had made war upon him last.
The following winter (this was the year in which Cn. Pompey and M. Crassus were consuls), those Germans called the Usipetes, and likewise the Tenchtheri, with a great number of men, crossed the Rhine, not far from the place at which that river discharges itself into the sea. The motive for crossing that river was that, having been for several years harassed by the Suevi, they were constantly engaged in war, and hindered from the pursuits of agriculture. The nation of the Suevi is by far the largest and the most warlike nation of all the Germans. They are said to possess a hundred cantons, from each of which they yearly send from their territories for the purpose of war a thousand armed men: the others who remain at home, maintain both themselves and those engaged in the expedition. The latter again, in their turn, are in arms the year after: the former remain at home. Thus neither husbandry nor the art and practice of war are neglected. But among them there exists no private and separate land; nor are they permitted to remain more than one year in one place for the purpose of residence. They do not live much on corn, but subsist for the most part on milk and flesh, and are much engaged in hunting; which circumstance must, by the nature of their food, and by their daily exercise and the freedom of their life (for having from boyhood been accustomed to no employment, or discipline, they do nothing at all contrary to their inclination), both promote their strength and render them men of vast stature of body. And to such a habit have they brought themselves, that even in the coldest parts they wear no clothing whatever except skins, by reason of the scantiness of which a great portion of their body is bare, and besides they bathe in open rivers.
Merchants have access to them rather that they may have persons to whom they may sell those things which they have taken in war, than because they need any commodity to be imported to them. Moreover, even as to labouring cattle, in which the Gauls take the greatest pleasure, and which they procure at a great price, the Germans do not employ such as are imported, but those poor and ill-shaped animals which belong to their country; these, however, they render capable of the greatest labour by daily exercise. In cavalry actions they frequently leap from their horses and fight on foot; and train their horses to stand still in the very spot on which they leave them, to which they retreat with great activity when there is occasion; nor, according to their practice, is anything regarded as more unseemly, or more unmanly, than to use housings. Accordingly, they have the courage, though they be themselves but few, to advance against any number whatever of horse mounted with housings. They on no account permit wine to be imported to them, because they consider that men degenerate in their powers of enduring fatigue, and are rendered effeminate by that commodity.
They esteem it their greatest praise as a nation that the lands about their territories lie unoccupied to a very great extent, inasmuch as they think that by this circumstance is indicated that a great number of nations cannot, withstand their power; and thus on one side of the Suevi the lands are said to lie desolate for about six hundred miles. On the other side they border on the Ubii, whose state was large and flourishing, considering the condition of the Germans, and who are somewhat more refined than those of the same race and the rest of the Germans, and that because they border on the Rhine, and are much resorted to by merchants, and are accustomed to the manners of the Gauls, by reason of their approximity to them. Though the Suevi, after making the attempt frequently and in several wars, could not expel this nation from their territories, on account of the extent and population of their state, yet they made them tributaries, and rendered them less distinguished and powerful than they had ever been.
In the same condition were the Usipetes and the Tenchtheri (whom we have mentioned above), who for many years resisted the power of the Suevi, but being at last driven from their possessions, and having wandered through many parts of Germany, came to the Rhine, to districts which the Menapii inhabited, and where they had lands, houses, and villages on either side of the river. The latter people, alarmed by the arrival of so great a multitude, removed from those houses which they had on the other side of the river, and having placed guards on this side the Rhine, proceeded to hinder the Germans from crossing. They, finding themselves, after they had tried all means, unable either to force a passage on account of their deficiency in shipping, or cross by stealth on account of the guards of the Menapii, pretended to return to their own settlements and districts; and, after having proceeded three days’ march, returned; and their cavalry having performed the whole of this journey in one night, cut off the Menapii, who were ignorant of, and did not expect their approach, and who, having moreover been informed of the departure of the Germans by their scouts, had without apprehension returned to their villages beyond the Rhine. Having slain these, and seized their ships, they crossed the river before that part of the Menapii, who were at peace in their settlements over the Rhine, were apprised of their intention; and seizing all their houses, maintained themselves upon their provisions during the rest of the winter.
Caesar, when informed of these matters, fearing the fickle disposition of the Gauls, who are easily prompted to take up resolutions, and much addicted to change, considered that nothing was to be entrusted to them; for it is the custom of that people to compel travellers to stop, even against their inclination, and inquire what they may have heard, or may know, respecting any matter; and in towns the common people throng around merchants and force them to state from what countries they come, and what affairs they know of there. They often engage in resolutions concerning the most important matters, induced by these reports and stories alone; of which they must necessarily instantly repent, since they yield to mere unauthorised reports; and since most people give to their questions answers framed agreeably to their wishes.
Caesar, being aware of their custom, in order that he might not encounter a more formidable war, sets forward to the army earlier in the year than he was accustomed to do. When he had arrived there, he discovered that those things, which he had suspected would occur, had taken place; that embassies had been sent to the Germans by some of the states, and that they had been entreated to leave the Rhine, and had been promised that all things which they desired should be provided by the Gauls. Allured by this hope, the Germans were then making excursions to greater distances, and had advanced to the territories of the Eburones and the Condrusi, who are under the protection of the Treviri. After summoning the chiefs of Gaul, Caesar thought proper to pretend ignorance of the things which he had discovered; and having conciliated and confirmed their minds, and ordered some cavalry to be raised, resolved to make war against the Germans.
Having provided corn and selected his cavalry, he began to direct his march towards those parts in which he heard the Germans were. When he was distant from them only a few days’ march, ambassadors come to him from their state; whose speech was as follows:—“That the Germans neither make war upon the Roman people first, nor do they decline, if they are provoked, to engage with them in arms; for that this was the custom of the Germans handed down to them from their forefathers, to resist whatsoever people make war upon them and not to avert it by entreaty; this, however, they confessed—that they had come hither reluctantly, having been expelled from their country. If the Romans were disposed to accept their friendship, they might be serviceable allies to them; and let them either assign them lands, or permit them to retain those which they had acquired by their arms; that they are inferior to the Suevi alone, to whom not even the immortal gods can show themselves equal; that there was none at all besides on earth whom they could not conquer.”
To these remarks Caesar replied in such terms as he thought proper; but the conclusion of his speech was, “That he could make no alliance with them, if they continued in Gaul; that it was not probable that they who were not able to defend their own territories, should get possession of those of others, nor were there any lands lying waste in Gaul which could be given away, especially to so great a number of men, without doing wrong to others; but they might, if they were desirous, settle in the territories of the Ubii; whose ambassadors were then with him, and were complaining of the aggressions of the Suevi, and requesting assistance from him; and that he would obtain this request from them.”
The ambassadors said that they would report these things to their countrymen; and, after having deliberated on the matter, would return to Caesar after the third day, they begged that he would not in the meantime advance his camp nearer to them. Caesar said that he could not grant them even that; for he had learned that they had sent a great part of their cavalry over the Meuse to the Ambivariti, some days before, for the purpose of plundering and procuring forage. He supposed that they were then waiting for these horse, and that the delay was caused on this account.
The Meuse rises from mount Le Vosge, which is in the territories of the Lingones; and, having received a branch of the Rhine, which is called the Waal, forms the island of the Batavi, and not more than eighty miles from it it falls into the ocean. But the Rhine takes its course among the Lepontii, who inhabit the Alps, and is carried with a rapid current for a long distance through the territories of the Sarunates, Helvetii, Sequani, Mediomatrici, Tribuci, and Treviri, and when it approaches the ocean, divides into several branches; and, having formed many and extensive islands, a great part of which are inhabited by savage and barbarous nations (of whom there are some who are supposed to live on fish and the eggs of sea-fowl), flows into the ocean by several mouths.
When Caesar was not more than twelve miles distant from the enemy, the ambassadors return to him, as had been arranged; who meeting him on the march, earnestly entreated him not to advance any farther. When they could not obtain this, they begged him to send on a despatch to those who had marched in advance of the main army, and forbid them to engage; and grant them permission to send ambassadors to the Ubii, and if the princes and senate of the latter would give them security by oath, they assured Caesar that they would accept such conditions as might be proposed by him; and requested that he would give them the space of three days for negotiating these affairs. Caesar thought that these things tended to the selfsame point [as their other proposal]; namely that, in consequence of a delay of three days intervening, their horse which were at a distance might return; however, he said, that he would not that day advance farther than four miles for the purpose of procuring water; he ordered that they should assemble at that place in as large a number as possible the following day, that he might inquire into their demands. In the meantime he sends messengers to the officers who had marched in advance with all the cavalry to order them not to provoke the enemy to an engagement, and if they themselves were assailed, to sustain the attack until he came up with the army.
But the enemy, as soon as they saw our horse, the number of which was 5000, whereas they themselves had not more than 800 horse, because those which had gone over the Meuse for the purpose of foraging had not returned, while our men had no apprehensions, because their ambassadors had gone away from Caesar a little before, and that day had been requested by them as a period of truce, made an onset on our men, and soon threw them into disorder. When our men, in their turn, made a stand, they, according to their practice, leaped from their horses to their feet, and stabbing our horses in the belly and overthrowing a great many of our men, put the rest to flight, and drove them forward so much alarmed that they did not desist from their retreat till they had come in sight of our army. In that encounter seventy-four of our horse were slain; among them, Piso, an Aquitanian, a most valiant man, and descended from a very illustrious family; whose grandfather had held the sovereignty of his state, and had been styled friend by our senate. He, while he was endeavouring to render assistance to his brother who was surrounded by the enemy, and whom he rescued from danger, was himself thrown from his horse, which was wounded under him, but still opposed his antagonists with the greatest intrepidity, as long as he was able to maintain the conflict. When at length he fell, surrounded on all sides and after receiving many wounds, and his brother, who had then retired from the fight, observed it from a distance, he spurred on his horse, threw himself upon the enemy, and was killed.
After this engagement, Caesar considered that neither ought ambassadors to be received to audience, nor conditions be accepted by him from those who, after having sued for peace by way of stratagem and treachery, had made war without provocation. And to wait till the enemy’s forces were augmented and their cavalry had returned, he concluded, would be the greatest madness; and knowing the fickleness of the Gauls, he felt how much influence the enemy had already acquired among them by this one skirmish. He therefore deemed that no time for concerting measures ought to be afforded them. After having resolved on these things and communicated his plans to his lieutenants and quaestor in order that he might not suffer any opportunity for engaging to escape him, a very seasonable event occurred, namely, that on the morning of the next day, a large body of Germans, consisting of their princes and old men, came to the camp to him to practise the same treachery and dissimulation; but, as they asserted, for the purpose of acquitting themselves for having engaged in a skirmish the day before, contrary to what had been agreed and to what, indeed, they themselves had requested; and also if they could by any means obtain a truce by deceiving him. Caesar, rejoicing that they had fallen into his power, ordered them to be detained. He then drew all his forces out of the camp, and commanded the cavalry, because he thought they were intimidated by the late skirmish, to follow in the rear.
Having marshalled his army in three lines, and in a short time performed a march of eight miles, he arrived at the camp of the enemy before the Germans could perceive what was going on; who being suddenly alarmed by all the circumstances, both by the speediness of our arrival and the absence of their own officers, as time was afforded neither for concerting measures nor for seizing their arms, are perplexed as to whether it would be better to lead out their forces against the enemy, or to defend their camp, or seek their safety by flight. Their consternation being made apparent by their noise and tumult, our soldiers, excited by the treachery of the preceding day, rushed into the camp: such of them as could readily get their arms for a short time withstood our men, and gave battle among their carts and baggage wagons; but the rest of the people, consisting of boys and women (for they had left their country and crossed the Rhine with all their families), began to fly in all directions; in pursuit of whom Caesar sent the cavalry.
The Germans when, upon hearing a noise behind them, they looked and saw that their families were being slain, throwing away their arms and abandoning their standards, fled out of the camp, and when they had arrived at the confluence of the Meuse and the Rhine, the survivors despairing of farther escape, as a great number of their countrymen had been killed, threw themselves into the river and there perished, overcome by fear, fatigue, and the violence of the stream. Our soldiers, after the alarm of so great a war, for the number of the enemy amounted to 430,000, returned to their camp, all safe to a man, very few being even wounded. Caesar granted those whom he had detained in the camp liberty of departing. They however, dreading revenge and torture from the Gauls, whose lands they had harassed, said that they desired to remain with him. Caesar granted them permission.
The German war being finished, Caesar thought it expedient for him to cross the Rhine, for many reasons; of which this was the most weighty, that, since he saw the Germans were so easily urged to go into Gaul, he desired they should have their fears for their own territories when they discovered that the army of the Roman people both could and dared pass the Rhine. There was added also, that that portion of the cavalry of the Usipetes and the Tenchtheri, which I have above related to have crossed the Meuse for the purpose of plundering and procuring forage, and was not present at the engagement, had betaken themselves, after the retreat of their countrymen, across the Rhine into the territories of the Sigambri, and united themselves to them. When Caesar sent ambassadors to them, to demand that they should give up to him those who had made war against him and against Gaul, they replied, “That the Rhine bounded the empire of the Roman people; if he did not think it just for the Germans to pass over into Gaul against his consent, why did he claim that anything beyond the Rhine should be subject to his dominion or power?” The Ubii also, who alone, out of all the nations lying beyond the Rhine, had sent ambassadors to Caesar, and formed an alliance and given hostages, earnestly entreated “that he would bring them assistance, because they were grievously oppressed by the Suevi; or, if he was prevented from doing so by the business of the commonwealth, he would at least transport his army over the Rhine; that that would be sufficient for their present assistance and their hope for the future; that so great was the name and the reputation of his army, even among the most remote nations of the Germans, arising from the defeat of Ariovistus and this last battle which was fought, that they might be safe under the fame and friendship of the Roman people.” They promised a large number of ships for transporting the army.
Caesar, for those reasons which I have mentioned, had resolved to cross the Rhine; but to cross by ships he neither deemed to be sufficiently safe, nor considered consistent with his own dignity or that of the Roman people. Therefore, although the greatest difficulty in forming a bridge was presented to him, on account of the breadth, rapidity, and depth of the river, he nevertheless considered that it ought to be attempted by him, or that his army ought not otherwise to be led over. He devised this plan of a bridge. He joined together at the distance of two feet, two piles, each a foot and a half thick, sharpened a little at the lower end, and proportioned in length to the depth of the river. After he had, by means of engines, sunk these into the river, and fixed them at the bottom, and then driven them in with rammers, not quite perpendicularly, like a stake, but bending forward and sloping, so as to incline in the direction of the current of the river; he also placed two other piles opposite to these, at the distance of forty feet lower down, fastened together in the same manner, but directed against the force and current of the river. Both these, moreover, were kept firmly apart by beams two feet thick (the space which the binding of the piles occupied), laid in at their extremities between two braces on each side; and in consequence of these being in different directions and fastened on sides the one opposite to the other, so great was the strength of the work, and such the arrangement of the materials, that in proportion as the greater body of water dashed against the bridge, so much the closer were its parts held fastened together. These beams were bound together by timber laid over them in the direction of the length of the bridge, and were then covered over with laths and hurdles; and in addition to this, piles were driven into the water obliquely, at the lower side of the bridge, and these serving as buttresses, and being connected with every portion of the work, sustained the force of the stream: and there were others also above the bridge, at a moderate distance; that if trunks of trees or vessels were floated down the river by the barbarians for the purpose of destroying the work, the violence of such things might be diminished by these defences, and might not injure the bridge.
Within ten days after the timber began to be collected, the whole work was completed, and the whole army led over. Caesar, leaving a strong guard at each end of the bridge, hastens into the territories of the Sigambri. In the meantime ambassadors from several nations come to him, whom, on their suing for peace and alliance, he answers in a courteous manner, and orders hostages to be brought to him. But the Sigambri, at the very time the bridge was begun to be built, made preparations for a flight (by the advice of such of the Tenchtheri and Usipetes as they had amongst them), and quitted their territories and conveyed away all their possessions, and concealed themselves in deserts and woods.
Caesar, having remained in their territories a few days, and burnt all their villages and houses, and cut down their corn, proceeded into the territories of the Ubii; and having promised them his assistance, if they were ever harassed by the Suevi, he learned from them these particulars: that the Suevi, after they had by means of their scouts found that the bridge was being built, had called a council, according to their custom, and sent orders to all parts of their state to remove from the towns and convey their children, wives, and all their possessions into the woods, and that all who could bear arms should assemble in one place; that the place thus chosen was nearly the centre of those regions which the Suevi possessed; that in this spot they had resolved to await the arrival of the Romans, and give them battle there. When Caesar discovered this, having already accomplished all those things on account of which he had resolved to lead his army over, namely, to strike fear into the Germans, take vengeance on the Sigambri, and free the Ubii from the invasion of the Suevi, having spent altogether eighteen days beyond the Rhine, and thinking he had advanced far enough to serve both honour and interest, he returned into Gaul, and cut down the bridge.
During the short part of summer which remained, Caesar, although in these countries, as all Gaul lies towards the north, the winters are early, nevertheless resolved to proceed into Britain, because he discovered that in almost all the wars with the Gauls succours had been furnished to our enemy from that country; and even if the time of year should be insufficient for carrying on the war, yet he thought it would be of great service to him if he only entered the island, and saw into the character of the people, and got knowledge of their localities, harbours, and landing-places, all which were for the most part unknown to the Gauls. For neither does anyone except merchants generally go thither, nor even to them was any portion of it known, except the seacoast and those parts which are opposite to Gaul. Therefore, after having called up to him the merchants from all parts, he could learn neither what was the size of the island, nor what or how numerous were the nations which inhabited it, nor what system of war they followed, nor what customs they used, nor what harbours were convenient for a great number of large ships.
He sends before him Caius Volusenus with a ship of war, to acquire a knowledge of these particulars before he in person should make a descent into the island, as he was convinced that this was a judicious measure. He commissioned him to thoroughly examine into all matters, and then return to him as soon as possible. He himself proceeds to the Morini with all his forces. He orders ships from all parts of the neighbouring countries, and the fleet which the preceding summer he had built for the war with the Veneti, to assemble in this place. In the meantime, his purpose having been discovered, and reported to the Britons by merchants, ambassadors come to him from several states of the island, to promise that they will give hostages, and submit to the government of the Roman people. Having given them an audience, he after promising liberally, and exhorting them to continue in that purpose, sends them back to their own country, and despatches with them Commius, whom, upon subduing the Atrebates, he had created king there, a man whose courage and conduct he esteemed, and who he thought would be faithful to him, and whose influence ranked highly in those countries. He orders him to visit as many states as he could, and persuade them to embrace the protection of the Roman people, and apprise them that he would shortly come thither. Volusenus, having viewed the localities as far as means could be afforded one who dared not leave his ship and trust himself to barbarians, returns to Caesar on the fifth day, and reports what he had there observed.
While Caesar remains in these parts for the purpose of procuring ships, ambassadors come to him from a great portion of the Morini, to plead their excuse respecting their conduct on the late occasion; alleging that it was as men uncivilised, and as those who were unacquainted with our custom, that they had made war upon the Roman people, and promising to perform what he should command. Caesar, thinking that this had happened fortunately enough for him, because he neither wished to leave an enemy behind him, nor had an opportunity for carrying on a war, by reason of the time of year, nor considered that employment in such trifling matters was to be preferred to his enterprise on Britain, imposes a large number of hostages; and when these were brought, he received them to his protection. Having collected together and provided about eighty transport ships, as many as he thought necessary for conveying over two legions, he assigned such ships of war as he had besides to the quaestor, his lieutenants, and officers of cavalry. There were in addition to these eighteen ships of burden which were prevented, eight miles from that place, by winds, from being able to reach the same port. These he distributed amongst the horse; the rest of the army he delivered to Q. Titurius Sabinus and L. Aurunculeius Cotta, his lieutenants, to lead into the territories of the Menapii and those cantons of the Morini from which ambassadors had not come to him. He ordered P. Sulpicius Rufus, his lieutenant, to hold possession of the harbour, with such a garrison as he thought sufficient.
These matters being arranged, finding the weather favourable for his voyage, he set sail about the third watch, and ordered the horse to march forward to the farther port, and there embark and follow him. As this was performed rather tardily by them, he himself reached Britain with the first squadron of ships, about the fourth hour of the day, and there saw the forces of the enemy drawn up in arms on all the hills. The nature of the place was this: the sea was confined by mountains so close to it that a dart could be thrown from their summit upon the shore. Considering this by no means a fit place for disembarking, he remained at anchor till the ninth hour, for the other ships to arrive there. Having in the meantime assembled the lieutenants and military tribunes, he told them both what he had learnt from Volusenus, and what he wished to be done; and enjoined them (as the principle of military matters, and especially as maritime affairs, which have a precipitate and uncertain action, required) that all things should be performed by them at a nod and at the instant. Having dismissed them, meeting both with wind and tide favourable at the same time, the signal being given and the anchor weighed, he advanced about seven miles from that place, and stationed his fleet over against an open and level shore.
But the barbarians, upon perceiving the design of the Romans, sent forward their cavalry and charioteers, a class of warriors of whom it is their practice to make great use in their battles, and following with the rest of their forces, endeavoured to prevent our men landing. In this was the greatest difficulty, for the following reasons, namely, because our ships, on account of their great size, could be stationed only in deep water; and our soldiers, in places unknown to them, with their hands embarrassed, oppressed with a large and heavy weight of armour, had at the same time to leap from the ships, stand amidst the waves, and encounter the enemy; whereas they, either on dry ground, or advancing a little way into the water, free in all their limbs, in places thoroughly known to them, could confidently throw their weapons and spur on their horses, which were accustomed to this kind of service. Dismayed by these circumstances and altogether untrained in this mode of battle, our men did not all exert the same vigour and eagerness which they had been wont to exert in engagements on dry ground.
When Caesar observed this, he ordered the ships of war, the appearance of which was somewhat strange to the barbarians and the motion more ready for service, to be withdrawn a little from the transport vessels, and to be propelled by their oars, and be stationed towards the open flank of the enemy, and the enemy to be beaten off and driven away with slings, arrows, and engines: which plan was of great service to our men; for the barbarians being startled by the form of our ships and the motions of our oars and the nature of our engines, which was strange to them, stopped, and shortly after retreated a little. And while our men were hesitating whether they should advance to the shore, chiefly on account of the depth of the sea, he who carried the eagle of the tenth legion, after supplicating the gods that the matter might turn out favourably to the legion, exclaimed, “Leap, fellow soldiers, unless you wish to betray your eagle to the enemy. I, for my part, will perform my duty to the commonwealth and my general.” When he had said this with a loud voice, he leaped from the ship and proceeded to bear the eagle toward the enemy. Then our men, exhorting one another that so great a disgrace should not be incurred, all leaped from the ship. When those in the nearest vessels saw them, they speedily followed and approached the enemy.
The battle was maintained vigorously on both sides. Our men, however, as they could neither keep their ranks, nor get firm footing, nor follow their standards, and as one from one ship and another from another assembled around whatever standards they met, were thrown into great confusion. But the enemy, who were acquainted with all the shallows, when from the shore they saw any coming from a ship one by one, spurred on their horses, and attacked them while embarrassed; many surrounded a few, others threw their weapons upon our collected forces on their exposed flank. When Caesar observed this, he ordered the boats of the ships of war and the spy sloops to be filled with soldiers, and sent them up to the succour of those whom he had observed in distress. Our men, as soon as they made good their footing on dry ground, and all their comrades had joined them, made an attack upon the enemy, and put them to flight, but could not pursue them very far, because the horse had not been able to maintain their course at sea and reach the island. This alone was wanting to Caesar’s accustomed success.
The enemy being thus vanquished in battle, as soon as they recovered after their flight, instantly sent ambassadors to Caesar to negotiate about peace. They promised to give hostages and perform what he should command. Together with these ambassadors came Commius the Atrebatian, who, as I have above said, had been sent by Caesar into Britain. Him they had seized upon when leaving his ship, although in the character of ambassador he bore the general’s commission to them, and thrown into chains: then after the battle was fought, they sent him back, and in suing for peace cast the blame of that act upon the common people, and entreated that it might be pardoned on account of their indiscretion. Caesar, complaining that after they had sued for peace, and had voluntarily sent ambassadors into the continent for that purpose, they had made war without a reason, said that he would pardon their indiscretion, and imposed hostages, a part of whom they gave immediately; the rest they said they would give in a few days, since they were sent for from remote places. In the meantime they ordered their people to return to the country parts, and the chiefs assembled from all quarters, and proceeded to surrender themselves and their states to Caesar.
A peace being established by these proceedings four days after we had come into Britain, the eighteen ships, to which reference has been made above, and which conveyed the cavalry, set sail from the upper port with a gentle gale; when, however, they were approaching Britain and were seen from the camp, so great a storm suddenly arose that none of them could maintain their course at sea; and some were taken back to the same port from which they had started;—others, to their great danger, were driven to the lower part of the island, nearer to the west; which, however, after having cast anchor, as they were getting filled with water, put out to sea through necessity in a stormy night, and made for the continent.
It happened that night to be full moon, which usually occasions very high tides in that ocean; and that circumstance was unknown to our men. Thus, at the same time, the tide began to fill the ships of war which Caesar had provided to convey over his army, and which he had drawn up on the strand; and the storm began to dash the ships of burden which were riding at anchor against each other; nor was any means afforded our men of either managing them or of rendering any service. A great many ships having been wrecked, inasmuch as the rest, having lost their cables, anchors, and other tackling, were unfit for sailing, a great confusion, as would necessarily happen, arose throughout the army; for there were no other ships in which they could be conveyed back, and all things which are of service in repairing vessels were wanting, and corn for the winter had not been provided in those places, because it was understood by all that they would certainly winter in Gaul.
On discovering these things the chiefs of Britain, who had come up after the battle was fought to perform those conditions which Caesar had imposed, held a conference, when they perceived that cavalry, and ships, and corn were wanting to the Romans, and discovered the small number of our soldiers from the small extent of the camp (which, too, was on this account more limited than ordinary because Caesar had conveyed over his legions without baggage), and thought that the best plan was to renew the war, and cut off our men from corn and provisions and protract the affair till winter; because they felt confident that, if they were vanquished or cut off from a return, no one would afterwards pass over into Britain for the purpose of making war. Therefore, again entering into a conspiracy, they began to depart from the camp by degrees and secretly bring up their people from the country parts.
But Caesar, although he had not as yet discovered their measures, yet, both from what had occurred to his ships, and from the circumstance that they had neglected to give the promised hostages, suspected that the thing would come to pass which really did happen. He therefore provided remedies against all contingencies; for he daily conveyed corn from the country parts into the camp, used the timber and brass of such ships as were most seriously damaged for repairing the rest, and ordered whatever things besides were necessary for this object to be brought to him from the continent. And thus, since that business was executed by the soldiers with the greatest energy, he effected that, after the loss of twelve ships, a voyage could be made well enough in the rest.
While these things are being transacted, one legion had been sent to forage, according to custom, and no suspicion of war had arisen as yet, and some of the people remained in the country parts, others went backwards and forwards to the camp, they who were on duty at the gates of the camp reported to Caesar that a greater dust than was usual was seen in that direction in which the legion had marched. Caesar, suspecting that which was really the case—that some new enterprise was undertaken by the barbarians, ordered the two cohorts which were on duty to march into that quarter with him, and two other cohorts to relieve them on duty; the rest to be armed and follow him immediately. When he had advanced some little way from the camp, he saw that his men were overpowered by the enemy and scarcely able to stand their ground, and that, the legion being crowded together, weapons were being cast on them from all sides. For as all the corn was reaped in every part with the exception of one, the enemy, suspecting that our men would repair to that, had concealed themselves in the woods during the night. Then attacking them suddenly, scattered as they were, and when they had laid aside their arms, and were engaged in reaping, they killed a small number, threw the rest into confusion, and surrounded them with their cavalry and chariots.
Their mode of fighting with their chariots is this: firstly, they drive about in all directions and throw their weapons and generally break the ranks of the enemy with the very dread of their horses and the noise of their wheels; and when they have worked themselves in between the troops of horse, leap from their chariots and engage on foot. The charioteers in the meantime withdraw some little distance from the battle, and so place themselves with the chariots that, if their masters are overpowered by the number of the enemy, they may have a ready retreat to their own troops. Thus they display in battle the speed of horse, together with the firmness of infantry; and by daily practice and exercise attain to such expertness that they are accustomed, even on a declining and steep place, to check their horses at full speed, and manage and turn them in an instant and run along the pole, and stand on the yoke, and thence betake themselves with the greatest celerity to their chariots again.
Under these circumstances, our men being dismayed by the novelty of this mode of battle, Caesar most seasonably brought assistance; for upon his arrival the enemy paused, and our men recovered from their fear; upon which, thinking the time unfavourable for provoking the enemy and coming to an action, he kept himself in his own quarter, and, a short time having intervened, drew back the legions into the camp. While these things were going on, and all our men engaged, the rest of the Britons, who were in the fields, departed. Storms then set in for several successive days, which both confined our men to camp and hindered the enemy from attacking us. In the meantime the barbarians despatched messengers to all parts and reported to their people the small number of our soldiers, and how good an opportunity was given for obtaining spoil and for liberating themselves forever, if they should only drive the Romans from their camp. Having by these means speedily got together a large force of infantry and of cavalry, they came up to the camp.
Although Caesar anticipated that the same thing which had happened on former occasions would then occur—that, if the enemy were routed, they would escape from danger by their speed; still, having got about thirty horse, which Commius the Atrebatian, of whom mention has been made, had brought over with him [from Gaul], he drew up the legions in order of battle before the camp. When the action commenced, the enemy were unable to sustain the attack of our men long, and turned their backs; our men pursued them as far as their speed and strength permitted, and slew a great number of them; then, having destroyed and burnt everything far and wide, they retreated to their camp.
The same day, ambassadors sent by the enemy came to Caesar to negotiate a peace. Caesar doubled the number of hostages which he had before demanded; and ordered that they should be brought over to the continent, because, since the time of the equinox was near, he did not consider that, with his ships out of repair, the voyage ought to be deferred till winter. Having met with favourable weather he set sail a little after midnight, and all his fleet arrived safe at the continent, except two of the ships of burden which could not make the same port which the other ships did, and were carried a little lower down.
When our soldiers, about 300 in number, had been drawn out of these two ships, and were marching to the camp, the Morini, whom Caesar, when setting forth for Britain, had left in a state of peace, excited by the hope of spoil, at first surrounded them with a small number of men, and ordered them to lay down their arms, if they did not wish to be slain; afterwards however, when they, forming a circle, stood on their defence, a shout was raised and about 6000 of the enemy soon assembled; which being reported, Caesar sent all the cavalry in the camp as a relief to his men. In the meantime our soldiers sustained the attack of the enemy, and fought most valiantly for more than four hours, and, receiving but few wounds themselves, slew several of them. But after our cavalry came in sight, the enemy, throwing away their arms, turned their backs, and a great number of them were killed.
The day following Caesar sent Labienus, his lieutenant, with those legions which he had brought back from Britain, against the Morini, who had revolted; who, as they had no place to which they might retreat, on account of the drying up of their marshes (which they had availed themselves of as a place of refuge the preceding year), almost all fell into the power of Labienus. In the meantime Caesar’s lieutenants, Q. Titurius and L. Cotta, who had led the legions into the territories of the Menapii, having laid waste all their lands, cut down their corn and burnt their houses, returned to Caesar because the Menapii had all concealed themselves in their thickest woods. Caesar fixed the winter quarters of all the legions amongst the Belgae. Thither only two British states sent hostages; the rest omitted to do so. For these successes, a thanksgiving of twenty days was decreed by the senate upon receiving Caesar’s letter.
Lucius Domitius and Appius Claudius being consuls, Caesar when departing from his winter quarters into Italy, as he had been accustomed to do yearly, commands the lieutenants whom he appointed over the legions to take care that during the winter as many ships as possible should be built, and the old repaired. He plans the size and shape of them. For despatch of lading, and for drawing them on shore, he makes them a little lower than those which we have been accustomed to use in our sea; and that so much the more, because he knew that, on account of the frequent changes of the tide, less swells occurred there; for the purpose of transporting little and a great number of horses, he makes them a little broader than those which we use in other seas. All these he orders to be constructed for lightness and expedition, to which object their lowness contributes greatly. He orders those things which are necessary for equipping ships to be brought thither from Spain. He himself, on the assizes of Hither Gaul being concluded, proceeds into Illyricum, because he heard that the part of the province nearest them was being laid waste by the incursions of the Pirustae. When he had arrived there, he levies soldiers upon the states, and orders them to assemble at an appointed place. Which circumstance having been reported to them, the Pirustae send ambassadors to him to inform him that no part of those proceedings was done by public deliberation, and assert that they were ready to make compensation by all means for the injuries inflicted. Caesar, accepting their defence, demands hostages, and orders them to be brought to him on a specified day, and assures them that unless they did so he would visit their state with war. These being brought to him on the day which he had ordered, he appoints arbitrators between the states, who should estimate the damages and determine the reparation.
These things being finished, and the assizes being concluded, he returns into Hither Gaul, and proceeds thence to the army. When he had arrived there, having made a survey of the winter quarter, he finds that, by the extraordinary ardour of the soldiers, amidst the utmost scarcity of all materials, about six hundred ships of that kind which we have described above, and twenty-eight ships of war, had been built, and were not far from that state that they might be launched in a few days. Having commended the soldiers and those who had presided over the work, he informs them what he wishes to be done, and orders all the ships to assemble at port Itius, from which port he had learned that the passage into Britain was shortest, being only about thirty miles from the continent. He left what seemed a sufficient number of soldiers for that design; he himself proceeds into the territories of the Treviri with four legions without baggage, and 800 horse, because they neither came to the general diets [of Gaul], nor obeyed his commands, and were, moreover, said to be tampering with the Germans beyond the Rhine.
This state is by far the most powerful of all Gaul in cavalry, and has great forces of infantry, and as we have remarked above, borders on the Rhine. In that state, two persons, Indutiomarus and Cingetorix, were then contending with each other for the supreme power; one of whom, as soon as the arrival of Caesar and his legions was known, came to him; assures him that he and all his party would continue in their allegiance, and not revolt from the alliance of the Roman people, and informs him of the things which were going on amongst the Treviri. But Indutiomarus began to collect cavalry and infantry, and make preparations for war, having concealed those who by reason of their age could not be under arms in the forest Arduenna, which is of immense size, and extends from the Rhine across the country of the Treviri to the frontiers of the Remi. But after that, some of the chief persons of the state, both influenced by their friendship for Cingetorix, and alarmed at the arrival of our army, came to Caesar and began to solicit him privately about their own interests, since they could not provide for the safety of the state; Indutiomarus, dreading lest he should be abandoned by all, sends ambassadors to Caesar, to declare that he absented himself from his countrymen, and refrained from coming to him on this account, that he might the more easily keep the state in its allegiance, lest on the departure of all the nobility the commonalty should, in their indiscretion, revolt. And thus the whole state was at his control; and that he, if Caesar would permit, would come to the camp to him, and would commit his own fortunes and those of the state to his good faith.
Caesar, though he discerned from what motive these things were said, and what circumstance deterred him from his meditated plan, still, in order that he might not be compelled to waste the summer among the Treviri, while all things were prepared for the war with Britain, ordered Indutiomarus to come to him with 200 hostages. When these were brought, and among them his son and near relations whom he had demanded by name, he consoled Indutiomarus, and enjoined him to continue in his allegiance; yet, nevertheless, summoning to him the chief men of the Treviri, he reconciled them individually to Cingetorix: this he both thought should be done by him in justice to the merits of the latter, and also judged that it was of great importance that the influence of one whose singular attachment towards him he had fully seen, should prevail as much as possible among his people. Indutiomarus was very much offended at this act, seeing that his influence was diminished among his countrymen; and he, who already before had borne a hostile mind towards us, was much more violently inflamed against us through resentment at this.
These matters being settled, Caesar went to port Itius with the legions. There he discovers that forty ships which had been built in the country of the Meldi, having been driven back by a storm, had been unable to maintain their course, and had returned to the same port from which they had set out; he finds the rest ready for sailing, and furnished with everything. In the same place, the cavalry of the whole of Gaul, in number 4000, assembles, and also the chief persons of all the states; he had determined to leave in Gaul a very few of them, whose fidelity towards him he had clearly discerned, and take the rest with him as hostages; because he feared a commotion in Gaul when he should be absent.
There was together with the others, Dumnorix, the Aeduan, of whom we have made previous mention. Him in particular he had resolved to have with him, because he had discovered him to be fond of change, fond of power, possessing great resolution, and great influence among the Gauls. To this was added that Dumnorix had before said in an assembly of Aeduans, that the sovereignty of the state had been made over to him by Caesar; which speech the Aedui bore with impatience and yet dared not send ambassadors to Caesar for the purpose of either rejecting or deprecating that appointment. That fact Caesar had learned from his own personal friends. He at first strove to obtain by every entreaty that he should be left in Gaul; partly, because, being unaccustomed to sailing, he feared the sea; partly, because he said he was prevented by divine admonitions. After he saw that this request was firmly refused him, all hope of success being lost, he began to tamper with the chief persons of the Gauls, to call them apart singly and exhort them to remain on the continent; to agitate them with the fear that it was not without reason that Gaul should be stripped of all her nobility; that it was Caesar’s design to bring over to Britain and put to death all those whom he feared to slay in the sight of Gaul, to pledge his honour to the rest, to ask for their oath that they would by common deliberation execute what they should perceive to be necessary for Gaul. These things were reported to Caesar by several persons.
Having learned this fact, Caesar, because he had conferred so much honour upon the Aeduan state, determined that Dumnorix should be restrained and deterred by whatever means he could; and that, because he perceived his insane designs to be proceeding farther and farther, care should be taken lest he might be able to injure him and the commonwealth. Therefore, having stayed about twenty-five days in that place, because the north wind, which usually blows a great part of every season, prevented the voyage, he exerted himself to keep Dumnorix in his allegiance and nevertheless learn all his measures: having at length met with favourable weather, he orders the foot soldiers and the horse to embark in the ships. But, while the minds of all were occupied, Dumnorix began to take his departure from the camp homewards with the cavalry of the Aedui, Caesar being ignorant of it. Caesar, on this matter being reported to him, ceasing from his expedition and deferring all other affairs, sends a great part of the cavalry to pursue him, and commands that he be brought back; he orders that if he use violence and do not submit, that he be slain: considering that Dumnorix would do nothing as a rational man while he himself was absent, since he had disregarded his command even when present. He, however, when recalled, began to resist and defend himself with his hand, and implore the support of his people, often exclaiming that “he was free and the subject of a free state.” They surround and kill the man as they had been commanded; but the Aeduan horsemen all return to Caesar.
When these things were done and Labienus, left on the continent with three legions and 2000 horse, to defend the harbours and provide corn, and discover what was going on in Gaul, and take measures according to the occasion and according to the circumstance; he himself, with five legions and a number of horse, equal to that which he was leaving on the continent, set sail at sunset and though for a time borne forward by a gentle southwest wind, he did not maintain his course, in consequence of the wind dying away about midnight, and being carried on too far by the tide, when the sun rose, espied Britain passed on his left. Then, again, following the change of tide, he urged on with the oars that he might make that port of the island in which he had discovered the preceding summer that there was the best landing-place, and in this affair the spirit of our soldiers was very much to be extolled; for they with the transports and heavy ships, the labour of rowing not being for a moment discontinued, equalled the speed of the ships of war. All the ships reached Britain nearly at midday; nor was there seen a single enemy in that place, but, as Caesar afterwards found from some prisoners, though large bodies of troops had assembled there, yet being alarmed by the great number of our ships, more than eight hundred of which, including the ships of the preceding year, and those private vessels which each had built for his own convenience, had appeared at one time, they had quitted the coast and concealed themselves among the higher points.
Caesar, having disembarked his army and chosen a convenient place for the camp, when he discovered from the prisoners in what part the forces of the enemy had lodged themselves, having left ten cohorts and 300 horse at the sea, to be a guard to the ships, hastens to the enemy, at the third watch, fearing the less for the ships for this reason, because he was leaving them fastened at anchor upon an even and open shore; and he placed Q. Atrius over the guard of the ships. He himself, having advanced by night about twelve miles, espied the forces of the enemy. They, advancing to the river with their cavalry and chariots from the higher ground, began to annoy our men and give battle. Being repulsed by our cavalry, they concealed themselves in woods, as they had secured a place admirably fortified by nature and by art, which, as it seemed, they had before prepared on account of a civil war; for all entrances to it were shut up by a great number of felled trees. They themselves rushed out of the woods to fight here and there, and prevented our men from entering their fortifications. But the soldiers of the seventh legion, having formed a testudo and thrown up a rampart against the fortification, took the place and drove them out of the woods, receiving only a few wounds. But Caesar forbade his men to pursue them in their flight any great distance; both because he was ignorant of the nature of the ground, and because, as a great part of the day was spent, he wished time to be left for the fortification of the camp.
The next day, early in the morning, he sent both foot-soldiers and horse in three divisions on an expedition to pursue those who had fled. These having advanced a little way, when already the rear of the enemy was in sight, some horse came to Caesar from Quintus Atrius, to report that the preceding night, a very great storm having arisen, almost all the ships were dashed to pieces and cast upon the shore, because neither the anchors and cables could resist, nor could the sailors and pilots sustain the violence of the storm; and thus great damage was received by that collision of the ships.
These things being known to him, Caesar orders the legions and cavalry to be recalled and to cease from their march; he himself returns to the ships: he sees clearly before him almost the same things which he had heard of from the messengers and by letter, so that, about forty ships being lost, the remainder seemed capable of being repaired with much labour. Therefore he selects workmen from the legions, and orders others to be sent for from the continent; he writes to Labienus to build as many ships as he could with those legions which were with him. He himself, though the matter was one of great difficulty and labour, yet thought it to be most expedient for all the ships to be brought up on shore and joined with the camp by one fortification. In these matters he employed about ten days, the labour of the soldiers being unremitting even during the hours of night. The ships having been brought up on shore and the camp strongly fortified, he left the same forces which he did before as a guard for the ships; he sets out in person for the same place that he had returned from. When he had come thither, greater forces of the Britons had already assembled at that place, the chief command and management of the war having been entrusted to Cassivellaunus, whose territories a river, which is called the Thames, separates from the maritime states at about eighty miles from the sea. At an earlier period perpetual wars had taken place between him and the other states; but, greatly alarmed by our arrival, the Britons had placed him over the whole war and the conduct of it.
The interior portion of Britain is inhabited by those of whom they say that it is handed down by tradition that they were born in the island itself: the maritime portion by those who had passed over from the country of the Belgae for the purpose of plunder and making war; almost all of whom are called by the names of those states from which being sprung they went thither, and having waged war, continued there and began to cultivate the lands. The number of the people is countless, and their buildings exceedingly numerous, for the most part very like those of the Gauls: the number of cattle is great. They use either brass or iron rings, determined at a certain weight, as their money. Tin is produced in the midland regions; in the maritime, iron; but the quantity of it is small: they employ brass, which is imported. There, as in Gaul, is timber of every description, except beech and fir. They do not regard it lawful to eat the hare, and the cock, and the goose; they, however, breed them for amusement and pleasure. The climate is more temperate than in Gaul, the colds being less severe.
The island is triangular in its form, and one of its sides is opposite to Gaul. One angle of this side, which is in Kent, whither almost all ships from Gaul are directed, looks to the east; the lower looks to the south. This side extends about 500 miles. Another side lies towards Spain and the west, on which part is Ireland, less, as is reckoned, than Britain by one-half; but the passage from it into Britain is of equal distance with that from Gaul. In the middle of this voyage is an island, which is called Mona; many smaller islands besides are supposed to lie there, of which islands some have written that at the time of the winter solstice it is night there for thirty consecutive days. We, in our inquiries about that matter, ascertained nothing, except that, by accurate measurements with water, we perceived the nights to be shorter there than on the continent. The length of this side, as their account states, is 700 miles. The third side is towards the north, to which portion of the island no land is opposite; but an angle of that side looks principally towards Germany. This side is considered to be 800 miles in length. Thus the whole island is about 2000 miles in circumference.
The most civilised of all these nations are they who inhabit Kent, which is entirely a maritime district, nor do they differ much from the Gallic customs. Most of the inland inhabitants do not sow corn, but live on milk and flesh, and are clad with skins. All the Britons, indeed, dye themselves with wood, which occasions a bluish colour, and thereby have a more terrible appearance in fight. They wear their hair long, and have every part of their body shaved except their head and upper lip. Ten and even twelve have wives common to them, and particularly brothers among brothers, and parents among their children; but if there be any issue by these wives, they are reputed to be the children of those by whom respectively each was first espoused when a virgin.
The horse and charioteers of the enemy contended vigorously in a skirmish with our cavalry on the march; yet so that our men were conquerors in all parts, and drove them to their woods and hills; but, having slain a great many, they pursued too eagerly, and lost some of their men. But the enemy, after some time had elapsed, when our men were off their guard, and occupied in the fortification of the camp, rushed out of the woods, and making an attack upon those who were placed on duty before the camp, fought in a determined manner; and two cohorts being sent by Caesar to their relief, and these severally the first of two legions, when these had taken up their position at a very small distance from each other, as our men were disconcerted by the unusual mode of battle, the enemy broke through the middle of them most courageously, and retreated thence in safety. That day, Q. Laberius Durus, a tribune of the soldiers, was slain. The enemy, since more cohorts were sent against them, were repulsed.
In the whole of this method of fighting since the engagement took place under the eyes of all and before the camp, it was perceived that our men, on account of the weight of their arms, inasmuch as they could neither pursue the enemy when retreating, nor dare quit their standards, were little suited to this kind of enemy; that the horse also fought with great danger, because they [the Britons] generally retreated even designedly, and, when they had drawn off our men a short distance from the legions, leaped from their chariots and fought on foot in unequal [and to them advantageous] battle. But the system of cavalry engagement is wont to produce equal danger, and indeed the same, both to those who retreat and those who pursue. To this was added, that they never fought in close order, but in small parties and at great distances, and had detachments placed in different parts, and then the one relieved the other, and the vigorous and fresh succeeded the wearied.
The following day the enemy halted on the hills, a distance from our camp, and presented themselves in small parties, and began to challenge our horse to battle with less spirit than the day before. But at noon, when Caesar had sent three legions, and all the cavalry with C. Trebonius, the lieutenant, for the purpose of foraging, they flew upon the foragers suddenly from all quarters, so that they did not keep off even from the standards and the legions. Our men making an attack on them vigorously, repulsed them; nor did they cease to pursue them until the horse, relying on relief, as they saw the legions behind them, drove the enemy precipitately before them, and, slaying a great number of them, did not give them the opportunity either of rallying or halting, or leaping from their chariots. Immediately after this retreat, the auxiliaries who had assembled from all sides, departed; nor after that time did the enemy ever engage with us in very large numbers.
Caesar, discovering their design, leads his army into the territories of Cassivellaunus to the river Thames; which river can be forded in one place only, and that with difficulty. When he had arrived there, he perceives that numerous forces of the enemy were marshalled on the other bank of the river; the bank also was defended by sharp stakes fixed in front, and stakes of the same kind fixed under the water were covered by the river. These things being discovered from some prisoners and deserters, Caesar, sending forward the cavalry, ordered the legions to follow them immediately. But the soldiers advanced with such speed and such ardour, though they stood above the water by their heads only, that the enemy could not sustain the attack of the legions and of the horse, and quitted the banks, and committed themselves to flight.
Cassivellaunus, as we have stated above, all hope rising out of battle being laid aside, the greater part of his forces being dismissed, and about 4000 charioteers only being left, used to observe our marches and retire a little from the road, and conceal himself in intricate and woody places, and in those neighbourhoods in which he had discovered we were about to march, he used to drive the cattle and the inhabitants from the fields into the woods; and, when our cavalry, for the sake of plundering and ravaging the more freely, scattered themselves among the fields, he used to send out charioteers from the woods by all the well-known roads and paths, and, to the great danger of our horse, engage with them; and this source of fear hindered them from straggling very extensively. The result was that Caesar did not allow excursions to be made to a great distance from the main body of the legions, and ordered that damage should be done to the enemy in ravaging their lands and kindling fires only so far as the legionary soldiers could, by their own exertion and marching, accomplish it.
In the meantime, the Trinobantes, almost the most powerful state of those parts, from which the young man Mandubratius embracing the protection of Caesar had come to the continent of Gaul to meet him (whose father, Imanuentius, had possessed the sovereignty in that state, and had been killed by Cassivellaunus; he himself had escaped death by flight), send ambassadors to Caesar, and promise that they will surrender themselves to him and perform his commands; they entreat him to protect Mandubratius from the violence of Cassivellaunus, and send to their state someone to preside over it, and possess the government. Caesar demands forty hostages from them, and corn for his army, and sends Mandubratius to them. They speedily performed the things demanded, and sent hostages to the number appointed, and the corn.
The Trinobantes being protected and secured from any violence of the soldiers, the Cenimagni, the Segontiaci, the Ancalites, the Bibroci, and the Cassi, sending embassies, surrender themselves to Caesar. From them he learns that the capital town of Cassivellaunus was not far from that place, and was defended by woods and morasses, and a very large number of men and of cattle had been collected in it. (Now the Britons, when they have fortified the intricate woods, in which they are wont to assemble for the purpose of avoiding the incursion of an enemy, with an entrenchment and a rampart, call them a town.) Thither he proceeds with his legions: he finds the place admirably fortified by nature and art; he, however, undertakes to attack it in two directions. The enemy, having remained only a short time, did not sustain the attack of our soldiers, and hurried away on the other side of the town. A great amount of cattle was found there, and many of the enemy were taken and slain in their flight.
While these things are going forward in those places, Cassivellaunus sends messengers into Kent, which, we have observed above, is on the sea, over which districts four several kings reigned, Cingetorix, Carvilius, Taximagulus, and Segonax, and commands them to collect all their forces, and unexpectedly assail and storm the naval camp. When they had come to the camp, our men, after making a sally, slaying many of their men, and also capturing a distinguished leader named Lugotorix, brought back their own men in safety. Cassivellaunus, when this battle was reported to him, as so many losses had been sustained, and his territories laid waste, being alarmed most of all by the desertion of the states, sends ambassadors to Caesar to treat about a surrender through the mediation of Commius the Atrebatian. Caesar, since he had determined to pass the winter on the continent, on account of the sudden revolts of Gaul, and as much of the summer did not remain, and he perceived that even that could be easily protracted, demands hostages, and prescribes what tribute Britain should pay each year to the Roman people; he forbids and commands Cassivellaunus that he wage not war against Mandubratius or the Trinobantes.
When he had received the hostages, he leads back the army to the sea, and finds the ships repaired. After launching these, because he had a large number of prisoners, and some of the ships had been lost in the storm, he determines to convey back his army at two embarkations. And it so happened, that out of so large a number of ships, in so many voyages, neither in this nor in the previous year was any ship missing which conveyed soldiers; but very few out of those which were sent back to him from the continent empty, as the soldiers of the former convoy had been disembarked, and out of those (sixty in number) which Labienus had taken care to have built, reached their destination; almost all the rest were driven back, and when Caesar had waited for them for some time in vain, lest he should be debarred from a voyage by the season of the year, inasmuch as the equinox was at hand, he of necessity stowed his soldiers the more closely, and, a very great calm coming on, after he had weighed anchor at the beginning of the second watch, he reached land at break of day and brought in all the ships in safety.
The ships having been drawn up and a general assembly of the Gauls held at Samarobriva, because the corn that year had not prospered in Gaul by reason of the droughts, he was compelled to station his army in its winter-quarters, differently from the former years, and to distribute the legions among several states: one of them he gave to C. Fabius, his lieutenant, to be marched into the territories of the Morini; a second to Q. Cicero, into those of the Nervii; a third to L. Roscius, into those of the Essui; a fourth he ordered to winter with T. Labienus among the Remi in the confines of the Treviri; he stationed three in Belgium; over these he appointed M. Crassus, his questor, and L. Munatius Plancus and C. Trebonius, his lieutenants. One legion which he had raised last on the other side of the Po, and five cohorts, he sent amongst the Eburones, the greatest portion of whom lie between the Meuse and the Rhine, and who were under the government of Ambiorix and Cativolcus. He ordered Q. Titurius Sabinus and L. Aurunculeius Cotta, his lieutenants, to take the command of these soldiers. The legions being distributed in this manner, he thought he could most easily remedy the scarcity of corn; and yet the winter-quarters of all these legions (except that which he had given to L. Roscius to be led into the most peaceful and tranquil neighbourhood) were comprehended within about 100 miles. He himself in the meanwhile, until he had stationed the legions and knew that the several winter-quarters were fortified, determined to stay in Gaul.
There was among the Carnutes a man named Tasgetius, born of very high rank, whose ancestors had held the sovereignty in his state. To him Caesar had restored the position of his ancestors, in consideration of his prowess and attachment towards him, because in all his wars he had availed himself of his valuable services. His personal enemies had killed him when in the third year of his reign, many even of his own state being openly promoters of that act. This event is related to Caesar. He fearing, because several were involved in the act, that the state might revolt at their instigation, orders Lucius Plancus, with a legion, to proceed quickly from Belgium to the Carnutes, and winter there, and arrest and send to him the persons by whose instrumentality he should discover that Tasgetius was slain. In the meantime, he was apprised by all the lieutenants and questors to whom he had assigned the legions, that they had arrived in winter-quarters, and that the place for the quarters was fortified.
About fifteen days after they had come into winter-quarters, the beginning of a sudden insurrection and revolt arose from Ambiorix and Cativolcus, who, though they had met with Sabinus and Cotta at the borders of their kingdom, and had conveyed corn into our winter-quarters, induced by the messages of Indutiomarus, one of the Treviri, excited their people, and after having suddenly assailed the soldiers, engaged in procuring wood, came with a large body to attack the camp. When our men had speedily taken up arms and had ascended the rampart, and sending out some Spanish horse on one side, had proved conquerors in a cavalry action, the enemy, despairing of success, drew off their troops from the assault. Then they shouted, according to their custom, that some of our men should go forward to a conference, alleging that they had some things which they desired to say respecting the common interest, by which they trusted their disputes could be removed.
C. Arpineius, a Roman knight, the intimate friend of Q. Titurius, and with him Q. Junius, a certain person from Spain, who already on previous occasions had been accustomed to go to Ambiorix, at Caesar’s mission, is sent to them for the purpose of a conference: before them Ambiorix spoke to this effect: “That he confessed that for Caesar’s kindness towards him he was very much indebted to him, inasmuch as by his aid he had been freed from a tribute which he had been accustomed to pay to the Aduatuci, his neighbours; and because his own son and the son of his brother had been sent back to him, whom, when sent in the number of hostages, the Aduatuci had detained among them in slavery and in chains; and that he had not done that which he had done in regard to the attacking of the camp, either by his own judgment or desire, but by the compulsion of his state; and that his government was of that nature, that the people had as much of authority over him as he over the people. To the state moreover the occasion of the war was this—that it could not withstand the sudden combination of the Gauls; that he could easily prove this from his own weakness, since he was not so little versed in affairs as to presume that with his forces he could conquer the Roman people; but that it was the common resolution of Gaul; that that day was appointed for the storming of all Caesar’s winter-quarters, in order that no legion should be able to come to the relief of another legion, that Gauls could not easily deny Gauls, especially when a measure seemed entered into for recovering their common freedom. Since he had performed his duty to them on the score of patriotism [he said], he has now regard to gratitude for the kindness of Caesar; that he warned, that he prayed Titurius by the claims of hospitality, to consult for his and his soldiers’ safety; that a large force of the Germans had been hired and had passed the Rhine; that it would arrive in two days; that it was for them to consider whether they thought fit, before the nearest people perceived it, to lead off their soldiers when drawn out of winter-quarters, either to Cicero or to Labienus; one of whom was about fifty miles distant from them, the other rather more; that this he promised and confirmed by oath, that he would give them a safe passage through his territories; and when he did that, he was both consulting for his own state, because it would be relieved from the winter-quarters, and also making a requital to Caesar for his obligations.”
Arpineius and Junius relate to the lieutenants what they had heard. They, greatly alarmed by the unexpected affair, though those things were spoken by an enemy, still thought they were not to be disregarded; and they were especially influenced by this consideration, that it was scarcely credible that the obscure and humble state of the Eburones had dared to make war upon the Roman people of their own accord. Accordingly, they refer the matter to a council, and a, great controversy arises among them. L. Aurunculeius, and several tribunes of the soldiers and the centurions of the first rank, were of opinion “that nothing should be done hastily, and that they should not depart from the camp without Caesar’s orders”; they declared, “that any forces of the Germans, however great, might be encountered by fortified winter-quarters; that this fact was a proof of it; that they had sustained the first assault of the Germans most valiantly, inflicting many wounds upon them; that they were not distressed for corn; that in the meantime relief would come both from the nearest winter-quarters and from Caesar”; lastly, they put the query, “what could be more undetermined, more undignified, than to adopt measures respecting the most important affairs on the authority of an enemy?”
In opposition to those things Titurius exclaimed, “That they would do this too late, when greater forces of the enemy, after a junction with the Germans, should have assembled; or when some disaster had been received in the neighbouring winter-quarters; that the opportunity for deliberating was short; that he believed that Caesar had set forth into Italy, as the Carnutes would not otherwise have taken the measure of slaying Tasgetius, nor would the Eburones, if he had been present, have come to the camp with so great defiance of us; that he did not regard the enemy, but the fact, as the authority; that the Rhine was near; that the death of Ariovistus and our previous victories were subjects of great indignation to the Germans; that Gaul was inflamed, that after having received so many defeats she was reduced under the sway of the Roman people, her pristine glory in military matters being extinguished.” Lastly, “who would persuade himself of this, that Ambiorix had resorted to a design of that nature without sure grounds? That his own opinion was safe on either side; if there be nothing very formidable, they would go without danger to the nearest legion; if all Gaul conspired with the Germans, their only safety lay in despatch. What issue would the advice of Cotta and of those who differed from him, have? from which, if immediate danger was not to be dreaded, yet certainly famine, by a protracted siege, was.”
This discussion having been held on the two sides, when opposition was offered strenuously by Cotta and the principal officers, “Prevail,” said Sabinus, “if so you wish it”; and he said it with a louder voice, that a great portion of the soldiers might hear him; “nor am I the person among you,” he said, “who is most powerfully alarmed by the danger of death; these will be aware of it, and then, if anything disastrous shall have occurred, they will demand a reckoning at your hands; these, who, if it were permitted by you, united three days hence with the nearest winter-quarters, may encounter the common condition of war with the rest, and not, as if forced away and separated far from the rest, perish either by the sword or by famine.”
They rise from the council, detain both, and entreat, that “they do not bring the matter into the greatest jeopardy by their dissension and obstinacy; the affair was an easy one, if only they all thought and approved of the same thing, whether they remain or depart; on the other hand, they saw no security in dissension.” The matter is prolonged by debate till midnight. At last Cotta, being overruled, yields his assent; the opinion of Sabinus prevails. It is proclaimed that they will march at daybreak; the remainder of the night is spent without sleep, since every soldier was inspecting his property, to see what he could carry with him, and what, out of the appurtenances of the winter-quarters, he would be compelled to leave; every reason is suggested to show why they could not stay without danger, and how that danger would be increased by the fatigue of the soldiers and their want of sleep. At break of day they quit the camp, in a very extended line and with a very large amount of baggage, in such a manner as men who were convinced that the advice was given by Ambiorix, not as an enemy, but as most friendly towards them.
But the enemy, after they had made the discovery of their intended departure by the noise during the night and their not retiring to rest, having placed an ambuscade in two divisions in the woods, in a suitable and concealed place, two miles from the camp, waited for the arrival of the Romans; and when the greater part of the line of march had descended into a considerable valley, they suddenly presented themselves on either side of that valley, and began both to harass the rear and hinder the van from ascending, and to give battle in a place exceedingly disadvantageous to our men.
Then at length Titurius, as one who had provided nothing beforehand, was confused, ran to and fro, and set about arranging his troops; these very things, however, he did timidly and in such a manner that all resources seemed to fail him: which generally happens to those who are compelled to take council in the action itself. But Cotta, who had reflected that these things might occur on the march, and on that account had not been an adviser of the departure, was wanting to the common safety in no respect; both in addressing and encouraging the soldiers, he performed the duties of a general, and in the battle those of a soldier. And since they [Titurius and Cotta] could less easily perform everything by themselves, and provide what was to be done in each place, by reason of the length of the line of march, they ordered the officers to give the command that they should leave the baggage and form themselves into an orb, which measure, though in a contingency of that nature it was not to be condemned, still turned out unfortunately; for it both diminished the hope of our soldiers and rendered the enemy more eager for the fight, because it appeared that this was not done without the greatest fear and despair. Besides that happened, which would necessarily be the case, that the soldiers for the most part quitted their ensigns and hurried to seek and carry off from the baggage whatever each thought valuable, and all parts were filled with uproar and lamentation.
But judgment was not wanting to the barbarians; for their leaders ordered the officers to proclaim through the ranks “that no man should quit his place; that the booty was theirs, and for them was reserved whatever the Romans should leave; therefore let them consider that all things depended on their victory.” Our men were equal to them in fighting, both in courage and in number, and though they were deserted by their leader and by fortune, yet they still placed all hope of safety in their valour, and as often as any cohort sallied forth on that side, a great number of the enemy usually fell. Ambiorix, when he observed this, orders the command to be issued that they throw their weapons from a distance and do not approach too near, and in whatever direction the Romans should make an attack, there give way (from the lightness of their appointments and from their daily practice no damage could be done them); but pursue them when betaking themselves to their standards again.
Which command having been most carefully obeyed, when any cohort had quitted the circle and made a charge, the enemy fled very precipitately. In the meantime, that part of the Roman army, of necessity, was left unprotected, and the weapons received on their open flank. Again, when they had begun to return to that place from which they had advanced, they were surrounded both by those who had retreated and by those who stood next them; but if, on the other hand, they wished to keep their place, neither was an opportunity left for valour, nor could they, being crowded together, escape the weapons cast by so large a body of men. Yet, though assailed by so many disadvantages, and having received many wounds, they withstood the enemy, and, a great portion of the day being spent, though they fought from daybreak till the eighth hour, they did nothing which was unworthy of them. At length, each thigh of T. Balventius, who the year before had been chief centurion, a brave man and one of great authority, is pierced with a javelin; Q. Lucanius, of the same rank, fighting most valiantly, is slain while he assists his son when surrounded by the enemy; L. Cotta, the lieutenant, when encouraging all the cohorts and companies, is wounded full in the mouth by a sling.
Much troubled by these events, Q. Titurius, when he had perceived Ambiorix in the distance encouraging his men, sends to him his interpreter, Cn. Pompey, to beg that he would spare him and his soldiers. He, when addressed, replied, “If he wished to confer with him, it was permitted; that he hoped what pertained to the safety of the soldiers could be obtained from the people; that to him however certainly no injury would be done, and that he pledged his faith to that effect.” He consults with Cotta, who had been wounded, whether it would appear right to retire from battle, and confer with Ambiorix; saying that he hoped to be able to succeed respecting his own and the soldiers’ safety. Cotta says he will not go to an armed enemy, and in that perseveres.
Sabinus orders those tribunes of the soldiers whom he had at the time around him, and the centurions of the first ranks, to follow him, and when he had approached near to Ambiorix, being ordered to throw down his arms, he obeys the order and commands his men to do the same. In the meantime, while they treat upon the terms, and a longer debate than necessary is designedly entered into by Ambiorix, being surrounded by degrees, he is slain. Then they according to their custom shout out “Victory,” and raise their war-cry, and, making an attack on our men, break their ranks. There L. Cotta, while fighting, is slain, together with the greater part of the soldiers; the rest betake themselves to the camp from which they had marched forth, and one of them, L. Petrosidius, the standard bearer, when he was overpowered by the great number of the enemy, threw the eagle within the entrenchments and is himself slain while fighting with the greatest courage before the camp. They with difficulty sustain the attack till night; despairing of safety, they all to a man destroy themselves in the night. A few escaping from the battle, make their way to Labienus at winter-quarters, after wandering at random through the woods, and inform him of these events.
Elated by this victory, Ambiorix marches immediately with his cavalry to the Aduatuci, who bordered on his kingdom; he halts neither day nor night, and orders the infantry to follow him closely. Having related the exploit and roused the Aduatuci, the next day he arrived among the Nervii, and entreats “that they should not throw away the opportunity of liberating themselves forever and of punishing the Romans for those wrongs which they had received from them”; he tells them “that two lieutenants have been slain, and that a large portion of the army has perished; that it was not a matter of difficulty for the legion which was wintering with Cicero to be cut off, when suddenly assaulted; he declares himself ready to cooperate in that design.” He easily gains over the Nervii by this speech.
Accordingly, messengers having been forthwith despatched to the Centrones, the Grudii, the Levaci, the Pleumoxii, and the Geiduni, all of whom are under their government, they assemble as large bodies as they can, and rush unexpectedly to the winter-quarters of Cicero, the report of the death of Titurius not having as yet been conveyed to him. That also occurred to him which was the consequence of a necessary work—that some soldiers who had gone off into the woods for the purpose of procuring timber and therewith constructing fortifications, were intercepted by the sudden arrival of the enemy’s horse. These having been entrapped, the Eburones, the Nervii, and the Aduatuci and all their allies and dependants, begin to attack the legion: our men quickly run together to arms and mount the rampart; they sustained the attack that day with great difficulty, since the enemy placed all their hope in despatch, and felt assured that, if they obtained this victory, they would be conquerors forever.
Letters are immediately sent to Caesar by Cicero, great rewards being offered to the messengers if they carried them through. All the passes having been beset, those who were sent are intercepted. During the night as many as 120 towers are raised with incredible despatch out of the timber which they had collected for the purpose of fortification: the things which seemed necessary to the work are completed. The following day the enemy, having collected far greater forces, attack the camp and fill up the ditch. Resistance is made by our men in the same manner as the day before; this same thing is done afterwards during the remaining days. The work is carried on incessantly in the night: not even to the sick, or wounded, is opportunity given for rest: whatever things are required for resisting the assault of the next day are provided during the night: many stakes burnt at the end, and a large number of mural pikes are procured: towers are built up, battlements and parapets are formed of interwoven hurdles. Cicero himself, though he was in very weak health, did not leave himself the nighttime for repose, so that he was forced to spare himself by the spontaneous movement and entreaties of the soldiers.
Then these leaders and chiefs of the Nervii, who had any intimacy and grounds of friendship with Cicero, say they desire to confer with him. When permission was granted, they recount the same things which Ambiorix had related to Titurius, namely, “that all Gaul was in arms, that the Germans had passed the Rhine, that the winter-quarters of Caesar and of the others were attacked.” They report in addition also, about the death of Sabinus. They point to Ambiorix for the purpose of obtaining credence; “they are mistaken,” say they, “if they hoped for any relief from those who distrust their own affairs; that they bear such feelings towards Cicero and the Roman people that they deny them nothing but winter-quarters and are unwilling that this practice should become constant; that through their [the Nervii’s] means it is possible for them [the Romans] to depart from their winter-quarters safely and to proceed without fear into whatever parts they desire.” To these Cicero made only one reply: “that it is not the custom of the Roman people to accept any condition from an armed enemy: if they are willing to lay down their arms, they may employ him as their advocate and send ambassadors to Caesar: that he believed, from his [Caesar’s] justice, they would obtain the things which they might request.”
Disappointed in this hope, the Nervii surround the winter-quarters with a rampart eleven feet high, and a ditch thirteen feet in depth. These military works they had learnt from our men in the intercourse of former years, and, having taken some of our army prisoners, were instructed by them: but, as they had no supply of iron tools which are requisite for this service, they were forced to cut the turf with their swords, and to empty out the earth with their hands and cloaks, from which circumstance the vast number of the men could be inferred; for in less than three hours they completed a fortification of ten miles in circumference; and during the rest of the days they began to prepare and construct towers of the height of the ramparts, and grappling irons, and mantlets, which the same prisoners had taught them.
On the seventh day of the attack, a very high wind having sprung up, they began to discharge by their slings hot balls made of burnt or hardened clay, and heated javelins, upon the huts, which, after the Gallic custom, were thatched with straw. These quickly took fire, and by the violence of the wind, scattered their flames in every part of the camp. The enemy following up their success with a very loud shout, as if victory were already obtained and secured, began to advance their towers and mantlets, and climb the rampart with ladders. But so great was the courage of our soldiers, and such their presence of mind, that though they were scorched on all sides, and harassed by a vast number of weapons, and were aware that their baggage and their possessions were burning, not only did no one quit the rampart for the purpose of withdrawing from the scene, but scarcely did anyone even then look behind; and they all fought most vigorously and most valiantly. This day was by far the most calamitous to our men; it had this result, however, that on that day the largest number of the enemy was wounded and slain, since they had crowded beneath the very rampart, and the hindmost did not afford the foremost a retreat. The flame having abated a little, and a tower having been brought up in a particular place and touching the rampart, the centurions of the third cohort retired from the place in which they were standing, and drew off all their men: they began to call on the enemy by gestures and by words, to enter if they wished; but none of them dared to advance. Then stones having been cast from every quarter, the enemy were dislodged, and their tower set on fire.
In that legion there were two very brave men, centurions, who were now approaching the first ranks, T. Pulfio, and L. Varenus. These used to have continual disputes between them which of them should be preferred, and every year used to contend for promotion with the utmost animosity. When the fight was going on most vigorously before the fortifications, Pulfio, one of them, says, “Why do you hesitate, Varenus? or what better opportunity of signalising your valour do you seek? This very day shall decide our disputes.” When he had uttered these words, he proceeds beyond the fortifications, and rushes on that part of the enemy which appeared the thickest. Nor does Varenus remain within the rampart, but respecting the high opinion of all, follows close after. Then, when an inconsiderable space intervened, Pulfio throws his javelin at the enemy, and pierces one of the multitude who was running up, and while the latter was wounded and slain, the enemy cover him with their shields, and all throw their weapons at the other and afford him no opportunity of retreating. The shield of Pulfio is pierced and a javelin is fastened in his belt. This circumstance turns aside his scabbard and obstructs his right hand when attempting to draw his sword: the enemy crowd around him when thus embarrassed. His rival runs up to him and succours him in this emergency. Immediately the whole host turn from Pulfio to him, supposing the other to be pierced through by the javelin. Varenus rushes on briskly with his sword and carries on the combat hand to hand, and having slain one man, for a short time drove back the rest: while he urges on too eagerly, slipping into a hollow, he fell. To him, in his turn, when surrounded, Pulfio brings relief; and both having slain a great number, retreat into the fortifications amidst the highest applause. Fortune so dealt with both in this rivalry and conflict, that the one competitor was a succour and a safeguard to the other, nor could it be determined which of the two appeared worthy of being preferred to the other.
In proportion as the attack became daily more formidable and violent, and particularly because, as a great number of the soldiers were exhausted with wounds, the matter had come to a small number of defenders, more frequent letters and messengers were sent to Caesar; a part of which messengers were taken and tortured to death in the sight of our soldiers. There was within our camp a certain Nervian, by name Vertico, born in a distinguished position, who in the beginning of the blockade had deserted to Cicero, and had exhibited his fidelity to him. He persuades his slave, by the hope of freedom, and by great rewards, to convey a letter to Caesar. This he carries out bound about his javelin, and mixing among the Gauls without any suspicion by being a Gaul, he reaches Caesar. From him they received information of the imminent danger of Cicero and the legion.
Caesar having received the letter about the eleventh hour of the day, immediately sends a messenger to the Bellovaci, to M. Crassus, questor there, whose winter-quarters were twenty-five miles distant from him. He orders the legion to set forward in the middle of the night and come to him with despatch. Crassus set out with the messenger. He sends anther to C. Fabius, the lieutenant, ordering him to lead forth his legion into the territories of the Atrebates, to which he knew his march must be made. He writes to Labienus to come with his legion to the frontiers of the Nervii, if he could do so to the advantage of the commonwealth: he does not consider that the remaining portion of the army, because it was somewhat farther distant, should be waited for; but assembles about 400 horse from the nearest winter-quarters.
Having been apprised of the arrival of Crassus by the scouts at about the third hour, he advances twenty miles that day. He appoints Crassus over Samarobriva and assigns him a legion, because he was leaving there the baggage of the army, the hostages of the states, the public documents, and all the corn, which he had conveyed thither for passing the winter. Fabius, without delaying a moment, meets him on the march with his legion, as he had been commanded. Labienus, having learnt the death of Sabinus and the destruction of the cohorts, as all the forces of the Treviri had come against him, beginning to fear lest, if he made a departure from his winter-quarters, resembling a flight, he should not be able to support the attack of the enemy, particularly since he knew them to be elated by their recent victory, sends back a letter to Caesar, informing him with what great hazard he would lead out his legion from winter-quarters; he relates at large the affair which had taken place among the Eburones; he informs him that all the infantry and cavalry of the Treviri had encamped at a distance of only three miles from his own camp.
Caesar, approving of his motives, although he was disappointed in his expectation of three legions, and reduced to two, yet placed his only hopes of the common safety in despatch. He goes into the territories of the Nervii by long marches. There he learns from some prisoners what things are going on in the camp of Cicero, and in how great jeopardy the affair is. Then with great rewards he induces a certain man of the Gallic horse to convey a letter to Cicero. This he sends written in Greek characters, lest the letter being intercepted, our measures should be discovered by the enemy. He directs him, if he should be unable to enter, to throw his spear with the letter fastened to the thong, inside the fortifications of the camp. He writes in the letter, that he having set out with his legions, will quickly be there: he entreats him to maintain his ancient valour. The Gaul apprehending danger, throws his spear as he had been directed. It by chance stuck in a tower, and, not being observed by our men for two days, was seen by a certain soldier on the third day: when taken down, it was carried to Cicero. He, after perusing it, reads it out in an assembly of the soldiers, and fills all with the greatest joy. Then the smoke of the fires was seen in the distance, a circumstance which banished all doubt of the arrival of the legions.
The Gauls, having discovered the matter through their scouts, abandon the blockade, and march towards Caesar with all their forces: these were about 60,000 armed men. Cicero, an opportunity being now afforded, again begs of that Vertico, the Gaul, whom we mentioned above, to convey back a letter to Caesar; he advises him to perform his journey warily; he writes in the letter that the enemy had departed and had turned their entire force against him. When this letter was brought to him about the middle of the night, Caesar apprises his soldiers of its contents, and inspires them with courage for fighting: the following day, at the dawn, he moves his camp, and, having proceeded four miles, he espies the forces of the enemy on the other side of a considerable valley and rivulet. It was an affair of great danger to fight with such large forces in a disadvantageous situation. For the present, therefore, inasmuch as he knew that Cicero was released from the blockade, and thought that he might, on that account, relax his speed, he halted there and fortifies a camp in the most favourable position he can. And this, though it was small in itself, there being scarcely 7000 men, and these too without baggage, still by the narrowness of the passages, he contracts as much as he can, with this object, that he may come into the greatest contempt with the enemy. In the meanwhile, scouts having been sent in all directions, he examines by what most convenient path he might cross the valley.
That day, slight skirmishes of cavalry having taken place near the river, both armies kept in their own positions: the Gauls, because they were awaiting larger forces which had not then arrived; Caesar, to see if perchance by pretence of fear he could allure the enemy towards his position, so that he might engage in battle, in front of his camp, on this side of the valley; if he could not accomplish this, that, having inquired about the passes, he might cross the valley and the river with the less hazard. At daybreak the cavalry of the enemy approaches to the camp and joins battle with our horse. Caesar orders the horse to give way purposely, and retreat to the camp: at the same time he orders the camp to be fortified with a higher rampart in all directions, the gates to be barricaded, and in executing these things as much confusion to be shown as possible, and to perform them under the pretence of fear.
Induced by all these things the enemy lead over their forces and draw up their line in a disadvantageous position; and as our men also had been led down from the ramparts, they approach nearer, and throw their weapons into the fortification from all sides, and sending heralds round, order it to be proclaimed that, if “any, either Gaul or Roman, was willing to go over to them before the third hour, it was permitted; after that time there would not be permission”; and so much did they disregard our men, that the gates having been blocked up with single rows of turf as a mere appearance, because they did not seem able to burst in that way, some began to pull down the rampart with their hands, others to fill up the trenches. Then Caesar, making a sally from all the gates, and sending out the cavalry, soon puts the enemy to flight, so that no one at all stood his ground with the intention of fighting; and he slew a great number of them, and deprived all of their arms.
Caesar, fearing to pursue them very far, because woods and morasses intervened, and also because he saw that they suffered no small loss in abandoning their position, reaches Cicero the same day with all his forces safe. He witnesses with surprise the towers, mantlets, and other fortifications belonging to the enemy: the legion having been drawn out, he finds that even every tenth soldier had not escaped without wounds. From all these things he judges with what danger and with what great courage matters had been conducted; he commends Cicero according to his desert and likewise the legion; he addresses individually the centurions and the tribunes of the soldiers, whose valour he had discovered to have been signal. He receives information of the death of Sabinus and Cotta from the prisoners. An assembly being held the following day, he states the occurrence; he consoles and encourages the soldiers; he suggests that the disaster, which had been occasioned by the misconduct and rashness of his lieutenant, should be borne with a patient mind, because by the favour of the immortal gods and their own valour, neither was lasting joy left to the enemy, nor very lasting grief to them.
In the meanwhile the report respecting the victory of Caesar is conveyed to Labienus through the country of the Remi with incredible speed, so that, though he was about sixty miles distant from the winter-quarter of Cicero, and Caesar had arrived there after the ninth hour, before midnight a shout arose at the gates of the camp, by which shout an indication of the victory and a congratulation on the part of the Remi were given to Labienus. This report having been carried to the Treviri, Indutiomarus, who had resolved to attack the camp of Labienus the following day, flies by night and leads back all his forces into the country of the Treviri. Caesar sends back Fabius with his legion to his winter-quarters; he himself determines to winter with three legions near Samarobriva in three different quarters, and, because such great commotions had arisen in Gaul, he resolved to remain during the whole winter with the army himself. For the disaster respecting the death of Sabinus having been circulated among them, almost all the states of Gaul were deliberating about war, sending messengers and embassies into all quarters, inquiring what further measure they should take, and holding councils by night in secluded places. Nor did any period of the whole winter pass over without fresh anxiety to Caesar, or without his receiving some intelligence respecting the meetings and commotions of the Gauls. Among these, he is informed by L. Roscius, the lieutenant whom he had placed over the thirteenth legion, that large forces of those states of the Gauls, which are called the Armoricae, had assembled for the purpose of attacking him and were not more than eight miles distant; but intelligence respecting the victory of Caesar being carried to them, had retreated in such a manner that their departure appeared like a flight.
But Caesar, having summoned to him the principal persons of each state, in one case by alarming them, since he declared that he knew what was going on, and in another case by encouraging them, retained a great part of Gaul in its allegiance. The Senones, however, which is a state eminently powerful and one of great influence among the Gauls, attempting by general design to slay Cavarinus whom Caesar had created king among them (whose brother, Moritasgus, had held the sovereignty at the period of the arrival of Caesar in Gaul, and whose ancestors had also previously held it) when he discovered their plot and fled, pursued him even to the frontiers of the state, and drove him from his kingdom and his home; and, after having sent ambassadors to Caesar for the purpose of concluding a peace, when he ordered all their senate to come to him, did not obey that command. So far did it operate among those barbarian people, that there were found some to be the first to wage war; and so great a change of inclinations did it produce in all, that except the Aedui and the Remi, whom Caesar had always held in especial honour, the one people for their long standing and uniform fidelity towards the Roman people, the other for their late service in the Gallic war, there was scarcely a state which was not suspected by us. And I do not know whether that ought much to be wondered at, as well for several other reasons, as particularly because they who ranked above all nations for prowess in war, most keenly regretted that they had lost so much of that reputation as to submit to commands from the Roman people.
But the Treviri and Indutiomarus let no part of the entire winter pass without sending ambassadors across the Rhine, importuning the states, promising money, and asserting that, as a large portion of our army had been cut off, a much smaller portion remained. However, none of the German states could be induced to cross the Rhine, since “they had twice essayed it,” they said, “in the war with Ariovistus and in the passage of the Tenchtheri there; that fortune was not to be tempted any more.” Indutiomarus disappointed in this expectation, nevertheless began to raise troops, and discipline them, and procure horses from the neighbouring people and allure to him by great rewards the outlaws and convicts throughout Gaul. And such great influence had he already acquired for himself in Gaul by these means, that embassies were flocking to him in all directions, and seeking, publicly and privately, his favour and friendship.
When he perceived that they were coming to him voluntarily; that on the one side the Senones and the Carnutes were stimulated by their consciousness of guilt, on the other side the Nervii and the Aduatuci were preparing war against the Romans, and that forces of volunteers would not be wanting to him if he began to advance from his own territories, he proclaims an armed council (this according to the custom of the Gauls is the commencement of war) at which, by a common law, all the youth were wont to assemble in arms; whoever of them comes last is killed in the sight of the whole assembly after being racked with every torture. In that council he declares Cingetorix, the leader of the other faction, his own son-in-law (whom we have above mentioned, as having embraced the protection of Caesar, and never having deserted him) an enemy and confiscates his property. When these things were finished, he asserts in the council that he, invited by the Senones and the Carnutes, and several other states of Gaul, was about to march thither through the territories of the Remi, devastate their lands, and attack the camp of Labienus: before he does that, he informs them of what he desires to be done.
Labienus, since he was confining himself within a camp strongly fortified by the nature of the ground and by art, had no apprehensions as to his own and the legion’s danger, but was devising that he might throw away no opportunity of conducting the war successfully. Accordingly, the speech of Indutiomarus, which he had delivered in the council, having been made known to him by Cingetorix and his allies, he sends messengers to the neighbouring states and summons horse from all quarters: he appoints to them a fixed day for assembling. In the meantime, Indutiomarus, with all his cavalry, nearly every day used to parade close to his [Labienus’s] camp; at one time, that he might inform himself of the situation of the camp; at another time, for the purpose of conferring with or of intimidating him. Labienus confined his men within the fortifications and promoted the enemy’s belief of his fear by whatever methods he could.
Since Indutiomarus was daily advancing up to the camp with greater defiance, all the cavalry of the neighbouring states which he [Labienus] had taken care to have sent for, having been admitted in one night, he confined all his men within the camp by guards with such great strictness, that that fact could by no means be reported or carried to the Treviri. In the meanwhile Indutiomarus, according to his daily practice, advances up to the camp and spends a great part of the day there: his horse cast their weapons, and with very insulting language call out our men to battle. No reply being given by our men, the enemy when they thought proper, depart towards evening in a disorderly and scattered manner, Labienus unexpectedly sends out all the cavalry by two gates; he gives this command and prohibition, that, when the enemy should be terrified and put to flight (which he foresaw would happen, as it did), they should all make for Indutiomarus, and no one wound any man before he should have seen him slain, because he was unwilling that he should escape, in consequence of gaining time by the delay occasioned by the pursuit of the rest. He offers great rewards for those who should kill him: he sends up the cohorts as a relief to the horse. The issue justifies the policy of the man, and, since all aimed at one, Indutiomarus is slain, having been overtaken at the very ford of the river, and his head is carried to the camp: the horse, when returning, pursue and slay all whom they can. This affair having been known, all the forces of the Eburones and the Nervii which had assembled, depart; and for a short time after this action, Caesar was less harassed in the government of Gaul.
Caesar, expecting for many reasons a greater commotion in Gaul, resolves to hold a levy by the means of M. Silanus, C. Antistius Reginus, and T. Sextius, his lieutenants: at the same time he requested of Cn. Pompey, the proconsul, that since he was remaining near the city invested with military command for the interests of the commonwealth, he would command those men whom when consul he had levied by the military oath in Cisalpine Gaul, to join their respective corps, and to proceed to him; thinking it of great importance, as far as regarded the opinion which the Gauls would entertain for the future, that the resources of Italy should appear so great, that if any loss should be sustained in war, not only could it be repaired in a short time, but likewise be further supplied by still larger forces. And when Pompey had granted this to the interests of the commonwealth and the claims of friendship, Caesar having quickly completed the levy by means of his lieutenants, after three legions had been both formed and brought to him before the winter had expired, and the number of those cohorts which he had lost under Q. Titurius had been doubled, taught the Gauls, both by his dispatch and by his forces, what the discipline and the power of the Roman people could accomplish.
Indutiomarus having been slain, as we have stated, the government was conferred upon his relatives by the Treviri. They cease not to importune the neighbouring Germans and to promise them money: when they could not obtain their object from those nearest them, they try those more remote. Having found some states willing to accede to their wishes, they enter into a compact with them by a mutual oath, and give hostages as a security for the money: they attach Ambiorix to them by an alliance and confederacy. Caesar, on being informed of their acts, since he saw that war was being prepared on all sides, that the Nervii, Aduatuci, and Menapii, with the addition of all the Germans on this side of the Rhine were under arms, that the Senones did not assemble according to his command, and were concerting measures with the Carnutes and the neighbouring states, that the Germans were importuned by the Treviri in frequent embassies, thought that he ought to take measures for the war earlier than usual.
Accordingly, while the winter was not yet ended, having concentrated the four nearest legions, he marched unexpectedly into the territories of the Nervii, and before they could either assemble, or retreat, after capturing a large number of cattle and of men, and wasting their lands and giving up that booty to the soldiers, compelled them to enter into a surrender and give him hostages. That business having been speedily executed, he again led his legions back into winter-quarters. Having proclaimed a council of Gaul in the beginning of the spring, as he had been accustomed to do, when the deputies from the rest, except the Senones, the Carnutes, and the Treviri, had come, judging this to be the commencement of war and revolt, that he might appear to consider all things of less consequence than that war, he transfers the council to Lutetia of the Parisii. These were adjacent to the Senones, and had united their state to them during the memory of their fathers, but were thought to have no part in the present plot. Having proclaimed this from the tribunal, he advances the same day towards the Senones with his legions and arrives among them by long marches.
Acco, who had been the author of that enterprise, on being informed of his arrival, orders the people to assemble in the towns; to them, while attempting this and before it could be accomplished, news is brought that the Romans are close at hand: through necessity they give over their design and send ambassadors to Caesar for the purpose of imploring pardon; they make advances to him through the Aedui, whose state was from ancient times under the protection of Rome. Caesar readily grants them pardon and receives their excuse at the request of the Aedui; because he thought that the summer season was one for an impending war, not for an investigation. Having imposed one hundred hostages, he delivers these to the Aedui to be held in charge by them. To the same place the Carnutes send ambassadors and hostages, employing as their mediators the Remi, under whose protection they were: they receive the same answers. Caesar concludes the council and imposes a levy of cavalry on the states.
This part of Gaul having been tranquillized, he applies himself entirely both in mind and soul to the war with the Treviri and Ambiorix. He orders Cavarinus to march with him with the cavalry of the Senones, lest any commotion should arise either out of his hot temper, or out of the hatred of the state which he had incurred. After arranging these things, as he considered it certain that Ambiorix would not contend in battle, he watched his other plans attentively. The Menapii bordered on the territories of the Eburones, and were protected by one continued extent of morasses and woods; and they alone out of Gaul had never sent ambassadors to Caesar on the subject of peace. Caesar knew that a tie of hospitality subsisted between them and Ambiorix: he also discovered that the latter had entered into an alliance with the Germans by means of the Treviri. He thought that these auxiliaries ought to be detached from him before he provoked him to war; lest he, despairing of safety, should either proceed to conceal himself in the territories of the Menapii, or should be driven to coalesce with the Germans beyond the Rhine. Having entered upon this resolution, he sends the baggage of the whole army to Labienus, in the territories of the Treviri and orders two legions to proceed to him: he himself proceeds against the Menapii with five lightly-equipped legions. They, having assembled no troops, as they relied on the defence of their position, retreat into the woods and morasses, and convey thither all their property.
Caesar, having divided his forces with C. Fabius, his lieutenant, and M. Crassus, his questor, and having hastily constructed some bridges, enters their country in three divisions, burns their houses and villages, and gets possession of a large number of cattle and men. Constrained by these circumstances, the Menapii send ambassadors to him for the purpose of suing for peace. He, after receiving hostages, assures them that he will consider them in the number of his enemies if they shall receive within their territories either Ambiorix or his ambassadors. Having determinately settled these things, he left among the Menapii, Commius the Atrebatian with some cavalry as a guard; he himself proceeds toward the Treviri.
While these things are being performed by Caesar, the Treviri, having drawn together large forces of infantry and of cavalry, were preparing to attack Labienus and the legion which was wintering in their territories, and were already not further distant from him than a journey of two days, when they learn that two legions had arrived by the order of Caesar. Having pitched their camp fifteen miles off, they resolve to await the support of the Germans. Labienus, having learned the design of the enemy, hoping that through their rashness there would be some opportunity of engaging, after leaving a guard of five cohorts for the baggage, advances against the enemy with twenty-five cohorts and a large body of cavalry, and, leaving the space of a mile between them, fortifies his camp. There was between Labienus and the enemy a river difficult to cross and with steep banks: this neither did he himself design to cross, nor did he suppose the enemy would cross it. Their hope of auxiliaries was daily increasing. He [Labienus] openly says in a council that “since the Germans are said to be approaching, he would not bring into uncertainty his own and the army’s fortunes, and the next day would move his camp at early dawn.” These words are quickly carried to the enemy, since out of so large a number of cavalry composed of Gauls, nature compelled some to favour the Gallic interests. Labienus, having assembled the tribunes of the soldiers and principal centurions by night, states what his design is, and, that he may the more easily give the enemy a belief of his fears, he orders the camp to be moved with greater noise and confusion than was usual with the Roman people. By these means he makes his departure appear like a retreat. These things, also, since the camps were so near, are reported to the enemy by scouts before daylight.
Scarcely had the rear advanced beyond the fortifications when the Gauls, encouraging one another “not to cast from their hands the anticipated booty, that it was a tedious thing, while the Romans were panic stricken, to be waiting for the aid of the Germans, and that their dignity did not suffer them to fear to attack with such great forces so small a band, particularly when retreating and encumbered,” do not hesitate to cross the river and give battle in a disadvantageous position. Labienus suspecting that these things would happen, was proceeding quietly, and using the same pretence of a march, in order that he might entice them across the river. Then, having sent forward the baggage some short distance and placed it on a certain eminence, he says, “Soldiers, you have the opportunity you have sought: you hold the enemy in an encumbered and disadvantageous position: display to us your leaders the same valour you have ofttimes displayed to your general: imagine that he is present and actually sees these exploits.” At the same time he orders the troops to face about towards the enemy and form in line of battle, and, despatching a few troops of cavalry as a guard for the baggage, he places the rest of the horse on the wings. Our men, raising a shout, quickly throw their javelins at the enemy. They, when, contrary to their expectation, they saw those whom they believed to be retreating, advance towards them with threatening banners, were not able to sustain even the charge, and, being put to flight at the first onslaught, sought the nearest woods; Labienus pursuing them with the cavalry, upon a large number being slain, and several taken prisoners, got possession of the state a few days after; for the Germans who were coming to the aid of the Treviri, having been informed of their flight, retreated to their homes. The relations of Indutiomarus, who had been the promoters of the revolt, accompanying them, quitted their own state with them. The supreme power and government were delivered to Cingetorix, whom we have stated to have remained firm in his allegiance from the commencement.
Caesar, after he came from the territories of the Menapii into those of the Treviri, resolved for two reasons to cross the Rhine; one of which was, because they had sent assistance to the Treviri against him; the other, that Ambiorix might not have a retreat among them. Having determined on these matters, he began to build a bridge a little above that place, at which he had before conveyed over his army. The plan having been known and laid down, the work is accomplished in a few days by the great exertion of the soldiers. Having left a strong guard at the bridge on the side of the Treviri, lest any commotion should suddenly arise among them, he leads over the rest of the forces and the cavalry. The Ubii, who before had sent hostages and come to a capitulation, send ambassadors to him, for the purpose of vindicating themselves, to assure him that “neither had auxiliaries been sent to the Treviri from their state, nor had they violated their allegiance”; they entreat and beseech him “to spare them, lest, in his common hatred of the Germans, the innocent should suffer the penalty of the guilty: they promise to give more hostages, if he desire them.” Having investigated the case, Caesar finds that the auxiliaries had been sent by the Suevi; he accepts the apology of the Ubii, and makes minute inquiries concerning the approaches and the routes to the territories of the Suevi.
In the meantime he is informed by the Ubii, a few days after, that the Suevi are drawing all their forces into one place, and are giving orders to those nations which are under their government to send auxiliaries of infantry and of cavalry. Having learned these things, he provides a supply of corn, selects a proper place for his camp, and commands the Ubii to drive off their cattle and carry away all their possessions from the country parts into the towns, hoping that they, being a barbarous and ignorant people, when harassed by the want of provisions, might be brought to an engagement on disadvantageous terms: he orders them to send numerous scouts among the Suevi, and learn what things are going on among them. They execute the orders, and, a few days having intervened, report that all the Suevi, after certain intelligence concerning the army of the Romans had come, retreated with all their own forces and those of their allies, which they had assembled, to the utmost extremities of their territories: that there is a wood there of very great extent, which is called Bacenis; that this stretches a great way into the interior, and, being opposed as a natural barrier, defends from injuries and incursions the Cherusci against the Suevi, and the Suevi against the Cherusci: that at the entrance of that forest the Suevi had determined to await the coming up of the Romans.
Since we have come to this place, it does not appear to be foreign to our subject to lay before the reader an account of the manners of Gaul and Germany, and wherein these nations differ from each other. In Gaul there are factions not only in all the states, and in all the cantons and their divisions, but almost in each family, and of these factions those are the leaders who are considered according to their judgment to possess the greatest influence, upon whose will and determination the management of all affairs and measures depends. And that seems to have been instituted in ancient times with this view, that no one of the common people should be in want of support against one more powerful; for none of those leaders suffers his party to be oppressed and defrauded, and if he do otherwise, he has no influence among his party. This same policy exists throughout the whole of Gaul; for all the states are divided into two factions.
When Caesar arrived in Gaul, the Aedui were the leaders of one faction, the Sequani of the other. Since the latter were less powerful by themselves, inasmuch as the chief influence was from of old among the Aedui, and their dependencies were great, they had united to themselves the Germans and Ariovistus, and had brought them over to their party by great sacrifices and promises. And having fought several successful battles and slain all the nobility of the Aedui, they had so far surpassed them in power, that they brought over, from the Aedui to themselves, a large portion of their dependants and received from them the sons of their leading men as hostages, and compelled them to swear in their public character that they would enter into no design against them; and held a portion of the neighbouring land, seized on by force, and possessed the sovereignty of the whole of Gaul. Divitiacus urged by this necessity, had proceeded to Rome to the senate, for the purpose of entreating assistance, and had returned without accomplishing his object. A change of affairs ensued on the arrival of Caesar, the hostages were returned to the Aedui, their old dependencies restored, and new acquired through Caesar (because those who had attached themselves to their alliance saw that they enjoyed a better state and a milder government), their other interests, their influence, their reputation were likewise increased, and in consequence, the Sequani lost the sovereignty. The Remi succeeded to their place, and, as it was perceived that they equalled the Aedui in favour with Caesar, those, who on account of their old animosities could by no means coalesce with the Aedui, consigned themselves in clientship to the Remi. The latter carefully protected them. Thus they possessed both a new and suddenly acquired influence. Affairs were then in that position, that the Aedui were considered by far the leading people, and the Remi held the second post of honour.
Throughout all Gaul there are two orders of those men who are of any rank and dignity: for the commonality is held almost in the condition of slaves, and dares to undertake nothing of itself and is admitted to no deliberation. The greater part, when they are pressed either by debt, or the large amount of their tributes, or the oppression of the more powerful, give themselves up in vassalage to the nobles, who possess over them the same rights without exception as masters over their slaves. But of these two orders, one is that of the Druids, the other that of the knights. The former are engaged in things sacred, conduct the public and the private sacrifices, and interpret all matters of religion. To these a large number of the young men resort for the purpose of instruction, and they [the Druids] are in great honour among them. For they determine respecting almost all controversies, public and private; and if any crime has been perpetrated, if murder has been committed, if there be any dispute about an inheritance, if any about boundaries, these same persons decide it; they decree rewards and punishments if anyone, either in a private or public capacity, has not submitted to their decision, they interdict him from the sacrifices. This among them is the most heavy punishment. Those who have been thus interdicted are esteemed in the number of the impious and the criminal: all shun them, and avoid their society and conversation, lest they receive some evil from their contact; nor is justice administered to them when seeking it, nor is any dignity bestowed on them. Over all these Druids one presides, who possesses supreme authority among them. Upon his death, if any individual among the rest is preeminent in dignity, he succeeds; but, if there are many equal, the election is made by the suffrages of the Druids; sometimes they even contend for the presidency with arms. These assemble at a fixed period of the year in a consecrated place in the territories of the Carnutes, which is reckoned the central region of the whole of Gaul. Hither all, who have disputes, assemble from every part, and submit to their decrees and determinations. This institution is supposed to have been devised in Britain, and to have been brought over from it into Gaul; and now those who desire to gain a more accurate knowledge of that system generally proceed thither for the purpose of studying it.
The Druids do not go to war, nor pay tribute together with the rest; they have an exemption from military service and a dispensation in all matters. Induced by such great advantages, many embrace this profession of their own accord, and many are sent to it by their parents and relations. They are said there to learn by heart a great number of verses; accordingly some remain in the course of training twenty years. Nor do they regard it lawful to commit these to writing, though in almost all other matters, in their public and private transactions, they use Greek characters. That practice they seem to me to have adopted for two reasons; because they neither desire their doctrines to be divulged among the mass of the people, nor those who learn, to devote themselves the less to the efforts of memory, relying on writing; since it generally occurs to most men, that, in their dependence on writing, they relax their diligence in learning thoroughly, and their employment of the memory. They wish to inculcate this as one of their leading tenets, that souls do not become extinct, but pass after death from one body to another, and they think that men by this tenet are in a great degree excited to valour, the fear of death being disregarded. They likewise discuss and impart to the youth many things respecting the stars and their motion, respecting the extent of the world and of our earth, respecting the nature of things, respecting the power and the majesty of the immortal gods.
The other order is that of the knights. These, when there is occasion and any war occurs (which before Caesar’s arrival was for the most part wont to happen every year, as either they on their part were inflicting injuries or repelling those which others inflicted on them), are all engaged in war. And those of them most distinguished by birth and resources, have the greatest number of vassals and dependants about them. They acknowledge this sort of influence and power only.
The nation of all the Gauls is extremely devoted to superstitious rites; and on that account they who are troubled with unusually severe diseases and they who are engaged in battles and dangers, either sacrifice men as victims, or vow that they will sacrifice them, and employ the Druids as the performers of those sacrifices; because they think that unless the life of a man be offered for the life of a man, the mind of the immortal gods cannot be rendered propitious, and they have sacrifices of that kind ordained for national purposes. Others have figures of vast size, the limbs of which formed of osiers they fill with living men, which being set on fire, the men perish enveloped in the flames. They consider that the oblation of such as have been taken in theft, or in robbery, or any other offence, is more acceptable to the immortal gods; but when a supply of that class is wanting, they have recourse to the oblation of even the innocent.
They worship as their divinity, Mercury in particular, and have many images of him, and regard him as the inventor of all arts, they consider him, the guide of their journeys and marches, and believe him to have very great influence over the acquisition of gain and mercantile transactions. Next to him they worship Apollo, and Mars, and Jupiter, and Minerva; respecting these deities they have for the most part the same belief as other nations: that Apollo averts diseases, that Minerva imparts the invention of manufactures, that Jupiter possesses the sovereignty of the heavenly powers; that Mars presides over wars. To him when they have determined to engage in battle, they commonly vow those things they shall take in war. When they have conquered, they sacrifice whatever captured animals may have survived the conflict, and collect the other things into one place. In many states you may see piles of these things heaped up in their consecrated spots; nor does it often happen that anyone, disregarding the sanctity of the case, dares either to secrete in his house things captured, or take away those deposited; and the most severe punishment, with torture, has been established for such a deed.
All the Gauls assert that they are descended from the god Dis, and say that this tradition has been handed down by the Druids. For that reason they compute the divisions of every season, not by the number of days, but of nights; they keep birthdays and the beginnings of months and years in such an order that the day follows the night. Among the other usages of their life, they differ in this from almost all other nations, that they do not permit their children to approach them openly until they are grown up so as to be able to bear the service of war; and they regard it as indecorous for a son of boyish age to stand in public in the presence of his father.
Whatever sums of money the husbands have received in the name of dowry from their wives, making an estimate of it, they add the same amount out of their own estates. An account is kept of all this money conjointly, and the profits are laid by: whichever of them shall have survived the other, to that one the portion of both reverts, together with the profits of the previous time. Husbands have power of life and death over their wives as well as over their children: and when the father of a family, born in a more than commonly distinguished rank, has died, his relations assemble, and, if the circumstances of his death are suspicious, hold an investigation upon the wives in the manner adopted towards slaves; and if proof be obtained, put them to severe torture, and kill them. Their funerals, considering the state of civilization among the Gauls, are magnificent and costly; and they cast into the fire all things, including living creatures, which they suppose to have been dear to them when alive; and, a little before this period, slaves and dependants, who were ascertained to have been beloved by them, were, after the regular funeral rites were completed, burnt together with them.
Those states which are considered to conduct their commonwealth more judiciously, have it ordained by their laws, that, if any person shall have heard by rumour and report from his neighbours anything concerning the commonwealth, he shall convey it to the magistrate and not impart it to any other; because it has been discovered that inconsiderate and inexperienced men were often alarmed by false reports and driven to some rash act, or else took hasty measures in affairs of the highest importance. The magistrates conceal those things which require to be kept unknown; and they disclose to the people whatever they determine to be expedient. It is not lawful to speak of the commonwealth, except in council.
The Germans differ much from these usages, for they have neither Druids to preside over sacred offices, nor do they pay great regard to sacrifices. They rank in the number of the gods those alone whom they behold, and by whose instrumentality they are obviously benefited, namely, the sun, fire, and the moon; they have not heard of the other deities even by report. Their whole life is occupied in hunting and in the pursuits of the military art; from childhood they devote themselves to fatigue and hardships. Those who have remained chaste for the longest time, receive the greatest commendation among their people: they think that by this the growth is promoted, by this the physical powers are increased and the sinews are strengthened. And to have had knowledge of a woman before the twentieth year they reckon among the most disgraceful acts; of which matter there is no concealment, because they bathe promiscuously in the rivers and only use skins or small cloaks of deers’ hides, a large portion of the body being in consequence naked.
They do not pay much attention to agriculture, and a large portion of their food consists in milk, cheese, and flesh; nor has anyone a fixed quantity of land or his own individual limits; but the magistrates and the leading men each year apportion to the tribes and families, who have united together, as much land as, and in the place in which, they think proper, and the year after compel them to remove elsewhere. For this enactment they advance many reasons—lest seduced by long-continued custom, they may exchange their ardour in the waging of war for agriculture; lest they may be anxious to acquire extensive estates, and the more powerful drive the weaker from their possessions; lest they construct their houses with too great a desire to avoid cold and heat; lest the desire of wealth spring up, from which cause divisions and discords arise; and that they may keep the common people in a contented state of mind, when each sees his own means placed on an equality with those of the most powerful.
It is the greatest glory to the several states to have as wide deserts as possible around them, their frontiers having been laid waste. They consider this the real evidence of their prowess, that their neighbours shall be driven out of their lands and abandon them, and that no one dare settle near them; at the same time they think that they shall be on that account the more secure, because they have removed the apprehension of a sudden incursion. When a state either repels war waged against it, or wages it against another, magistrates are chosen to preside over that war with such authority, that they have power of life and death. In peace there is no common magistrate, but the chiefs of provinces and cantons administer justice and determine controversies among their own people. Robberies which are committed beyond the boundaries of each state bear no infamy, and they avow that these are committed for the purpose of disciplining their youth and of preventing sloth. And when any of their chiefs has said in an assembly “that he will be their leader, let those who are willing to follow, give in their names”; they who approve of both the enterprise and the man arise and promise their assistance and are applauded by the people; such of them as have not followed him are accounted in the number of deserters and traitors, and confidence in all matters is afterwards refused them. To injure guests they regard as impious; they defend from wrong those who have come to them for any purpose whatever, and esteem them inviolable; to them the houses of all are open and maintenance is freely supplied.
And there was formerly a time when the Gauls excelled the Germans in prowess, and waged war on them offensively, and, on account of the great number of their people and the insufficiency of their land, sent colonies over the Rhine. Accordingly, the Volcae Tectosages seized on those parts of Germany which are the most fruitful and lie around the Hercynian forest (which, I perceive, was known by report to Eratosthenes and some other Greeks, and which they call Orcynia) and settled there. Which nation to this time retains its position in those settlements, and has a very high character for justice and military merit: now also they continue in the same scarcity, indigence, hardihood, as the Germans, and use the same food and dress; but their proximity to the Province and knowledge of commodities from countries beyond the sea supplies to the Gauls many things tending to luxury as well as civilization. Accustomed by degrees to be overmatched and worsted in many engagements, they do not even compare themselves to the Germans in prowess.
The breadth of this Hercynian forest, which has been referred to above, is to a quick traveller, a journey of nine days. For it cannot be otherwise computed, nor are they acquainted with the measures of roads. It begins at the frontiers of the Helvetii, Nemetes, and Rauraci, and extends in a right line along the river Danube to the territories of the Daci and the Anartes: it bends thence to the left in a different direction from the river, and owing to its extent touches the confines of many nations; nor is there any person belonging to this part of Germany who says that he either has gone to the extremity of that forest, though he had advanced a journey of sixty days, or has heard in what place it begins. It is certain that many kinds of wild beasts are produced in it which have not been seen in other parts; of which the following are such as differ principally from other animals, and appear worthy of being committed to record.
There is an ox of the shape of a stag, between whose ears a horn rises from the middle of the forehead, higher and straighter than those horns which are known to us. From the top of this, branches, like palms; stretch out a considerable distance. The shape of the female and of the male is the same; the appearance and the size of the horns is the same.
There are also animals which are called elks. The shape of these, and the varied colour of their skins, is much like roes, but in size they surpass them a little and are destitute of horns, and have legs without joints and ligatures; nor do they lie down for the purpose of rest, nor, if they have been thrown down by any accident, can they raise or lift themselves up. Trees serve as beds to them; they lean themselves against them, and thus reclining only slightly, they take their rest; when the huntsmen have discovered from the footsteps of these animals whither they are accustomed to betake themselves, they either undermine all the trees at the roots, or cut into them so far that the upper part of the trees may appear to be left standing. When they have leant upon them, according to their habit, they knock down by their weight the unsupported trees, and fall down themselves along with them.
There is a third kind, consisting of those animals which are called uri. These are a little below the elephant in size, and of the appearance, colour, and shape of a bull. Their strength and speed are extraordinary; they spare neither man nor wild beast which they have espied. These the Germans take with much pains in pits and kill them. The young men harden themselves with this exercise, and practice themselves in this kind of hunting, and those who have slain the greatest number of them, having produced the horns in public, to serve as evidence, receive great praise. But not even when taken very young can they be rendered familiar to men and tamed. The size, shape, and appearance of their horns differ much from the horns of our oxen. These they anxiously seek after, and bind at the tips with silver, and use as cups at their most sumptuous entertainments.
Caesar, after he discovered through the Ubian scouts that the Suevi had retired into their woods, apprehending a scarcity of corn, because, as we have observed above, all the Germans pay very little attention to agriculture, resolved not to proceed any farther; but, that he might not altogether relieve the barbarians from the fear of his return, and that he might delay their succours, having led back his army, he breaks down, to the length of 200 feet, the farther end of the bridge, which joined the banks of the Ubii, and, at the extremity of the bridge raises towers of four stories, and stations a guard of twelve cohorts for the purpose of defending the bridge, and strengthens the place with considerable fortifications. Over that fort and guard he appointed C. Volcatius Tullus, a young man; he himself, when the corn began to ripen, having set forth for the war with Ambiorix (through the forest Arduenna, which is the largest of all Gaul, and reaches from the banks of the Rhine and the frontiers of the Treviri to those of the Nervii, and extends over more than 500 miles), he sends forward L. Minucius Basilus with all the cavalry, to try if he might gain any advantage by rapid marches and the advantage of time, he warns him to forbid fires being made in the camp, lest any indication of his approach be given at a distance: he tells him that he will follow immediately.
Basilus does as he was commanded; having performed his march rapidly, and even surpassed the expectations of all, he surprises in the fields many not expecting him; through their information he advances towards Ambiorix himself, to the place in which he was said to be with a few horse. Fortune accomplishes much, not only in other matters, but also in the art of war. For as it happened by a remarkable chance, that he fell upon Ambiorix himself unguarded and unprepared, and that his arrival was seen by the people before the report or information of his arrival was carried thither; so it was an incident of extraordinary fortune that, although every implement of war which he was accustomed to have about him was seized, and his chariots and horses surprised, yet he himself escaped death. But it was effected owing to this circumstance, that his house being surrounded by a wood, (as are generally the dwellings of the Gauls, who, for the purpose of avoiding heat, mostly seek the neighbourhood of woods and rivers) his attendants and friends in a narrow spot sustained for a short time the attack of our horse. While they were fighting, one of his followers mounted him on a horse: the woods sheltered him as he fled. Thus fortune tended much both towards his encountering and his escaping danger.
Whether Ambiorix did not collect his forces from cool deliberation, because he considered he ought not to engage in a battle, or whether he was debarred by time and prevented by the sudden arrival of our horse, when he supposed the rest of the army was closely following, is doubtful; but certainly, despatching messengers through the country, he ordered everyone to provide for himself; and a part of them fled into the forest Arduenna, a part into the extensive morasses; those who were nearest the ocean, concealed themselves in the islands which the tides usually form; many, departing from their territories, committed themselves and all their possessions to perfect strangers. Cativolcus, king of one-half of the Eburones, who had entered into the design together with Ambiorix, since, being now worn out by age, he was unable to endure the fatigue either of war or flight, having cursed Ambiorix with every imprecation, as the person who had been the contriver of that measure, destroyed himself with the juice of the yew tree, of which there is a great abundance in Gaul and Germany.
The Segui and Condrusi, of the nation and number of the Germans, and who are between the Eburones and the Treviri, sent ambassadors to Caesar to entreat that he would not regard them in the number of his enemies, nor consider that the cause of all the Germans on this side the Rhine was one and the same; that they had formed no plans of war, and had sent no auxiliaries to Ambiorix. Caesar, having ascertained this fact by an examination of his prisoners, commanded that if any of the Eburones in their flight had repaired to them, they should be sent back to him; he assures them that if they did that, he will not injure their territories. Then, having divided his forces into three parts, he sent the baggage of all the legions to Aduatuca. That is the name of a fort. This is nearly in the middle of the Eburones, where Titurius and Aurunculeius had been quartered for the purpose of wintering. This place he selected as well on other accounts as because the fortifications of the previous year remained, in order that he might relieve the labour of the soldiers. He left the fourteenth legion as a guard for the baggage, one of those three which he had lately raised in Italy and brought over. Over that legion and camp he places Q. Tullius Cicero and gives him 200 horse.
Having divided the army, he orders T. Labienus to proceed with three legions towards the ocean into those parts which border on the Menappii; he sends C. Trebonius with a like number of legions to lay waste that district which lies contiguous to the Aduatuci; he himself determines to go with the remaining three to the river Sambre, which flows into the Meuse, and to the most remote parts of Arduenna, whither he heard that Ambiorix had gone with a few horse. When departing, he promises that he will return before the end of the seventh day, on which day he was aware corn was due to that legion which was being left in garrison. He directs Labienus and Trebonius to return by the same day, if they can do so agreeably to the interests of the republic; so that their measures having been mutually imparted, and the plans of the enemy having been discovered, they might be able to commence a different line of operations.
There was, as we have above observed, no regular army, nor a town, nor a garrison which could defend itself by arms; but the people were scattered in all directions. Where either a hidden valley, or a woody spot, or a difficult morass furnished any hope of protection or of security to anyone, there he had fixed himself. These places were known to those that dwelt in the neighbourhood, and the matter demanded great attention, not so much in protecting the main body of the army (for no peril could occur to them altogether from those alarmed and scattered troops), as in preserving individual soldiers; which in some measure tended to the safety of the army. For both the desire of booty was leading many too far, and the woods with their unknown and hidden routes would not allow them to go in large bodies. If he desired the business to be completed and the race of those infamous people to be cut off, more bodies of men must be sent in several directions and the soldiers must be detached on all sides; if he were disposed to keep the companies at their standards, as the established discipline and practice of the Roman army required, the situation itself was a safeguard to the barbarians, nor was there wanting to individuals the daring to lay secret ambuscades and beset scattered soldiers. But amidst difficulties of this nature as far as precautions could be taken by vigilance, such precautions were taken; so that some opportunities of injuring the enemy were neglected, though the minds of all were burning to take revenge, rather than that injury should be effected with any loss to our soldiers. Caesar despatches messengers to the neighbouring states; by the hope of booty he invites all to him, for the purpose of plundering the Eburones, in order that the life of the Gauls might be hazarded in the woods rather than the legionary soldiers; at the same time, in order that a large force being drawn around them, the race and name of that state may be annihilated for such a crime. A large number from all quarters speedily assembles.
These things were going on in all parts of the territories of the Eburones, and the seventh day was drawing near, by which day Caesar had purposed to return to the baggage and the legion. Here it might be learned how much fortune achieves in war, and how great casualties she produces. The enemy having been scattered and alarmed, as we related above, there was no force which might produce even a slight occasion of fear. The report extends beyond the Rhine to the Germans that the Eburones are being pillaged, and that all were without distinction invited to the plunder. The Sigambri, who are nearest to the Rhine, by whom, we have mentioned above, the Tenchtheri and Usipetes were received after their retreat, collect 2000 horse; they cross the Rhine in ships and barks thirty miles below that place where the bridge was entire and the garrison left by Caesar; they arrive at the frontiers of the Eburones, surprise many who were scattered in flight, and get possession of a large amount of cattle, of which barbarians are extremely covetous. Allured by booty, they advance farther; neither morass nor forest obstructs these men, born amidst war and depredations; they inquire of their prisoners in what parts Caesar is; they find that he has advanced farther, and learn that all the army has removed. Thereon one of the prisoners says, “Why do you pursue such wretched and trifling spoil; you, to whom it is granted to become even now most richly endowed by fortune? In three hours you can reach Aduatuca; there the Roman army has deposited all its fortunes; there is so little of a garrison that not even the wall can be manned, nor dare anyone go beyond the fortifications.” A hope having been presented them, the Germans leave in concealment the plunder they had acquired; they themselves hasten to Aduatuca, employing as their guide the same man by whose information they had become informed of these things.
Cicero, who during all the foregoing days had kept his soldiers in camp with the greatest exactness, and agreeably to the injunctions of Caesar, had not permitted even any of the camp-followers to go beyond the fortification, distrusting on the seventh day that Caesar would keep his promise as to the number of days, because he heard that he had proceeded farther, and no report as to his return was brought to him, and being urged at the same time by the expressions of those who called his tolerance almost a siege, if, forsooth, it was not permitted them to go out of the camp, since he might expect no disaster, whereby he could be injured, within three miles of the camp, while nine legions and all the cavalry were under arms, and the enemy scattered and almost annihilated, sent five cohorts into the neighbouring cornlands, between which and the camp only one hill intervened, for the purpose of foraging. Many soldiers of the legions had been left invalided in the camp, of whom those who had recovered in this space of time, being about 300, are set together under one standard; a large number of soldiers’ attendants besides, with a great number of beasts of burden, which had remained in the camp, permission being granted, follow them.
At this very time, the German horse by chance come up, and immediately, with the same speed with which they had advanced, attempt to force the camp at the Decuman gate, nor were they seen, in consequence of woods lying in the way on that side, before they were just reaching the camp: so much so, that the sutlers who had their booths under the rampart had not an opportunity of retreating within the camp. Our men, not anticipating it, are perplexed by the sudden affair, and the cohort on the outpost scarcely sustains the first attack. The enemy spread themselves on the other sides to ascertain if they could find any access. Our men with difficulty defend the gates; the very position of itself and the fortification secures the other accesses. There is a panic in the entire camp, and one inquires of another the cause of the confusion, nor do they readily determine whither the standards should be borne, nor into what quarter each should betake himself. One avows that the camp is already taken, another maintains that, the enemy having destroyed the army and commander-in-chief, are come thither as conquerors; most form strange superstitious fancies from the spot, and place before their eyes the catastrophe of Cotta and Titurius, who had fallen in the same fort. All being greatly disconcerted by this alarm, the belief of the barbarians is strengthened that there is no garrison within, as they had heard from their prisoner. They endeavour to force an entrance and encourage one another not to cast from their hands so valuable a prize.
P. Sextius Baculus, who had led a principal century under Caesar (of whom we have made mention in previous engagements), had been left an invalid in the garrison, and had now been five days without food. He, distrusting his own safety and that of all, goes forth from his tent unarmed; he sees that the enemy are close at hand and that the matter is in the utmost danger; he snatches arms from those nearest, and stations himself at the gate. The centurions of that cohort which was on guard follow him; for a short time they sustain the fight together. Sextius faints, after receiving many wounds; he is with difficulty saved, drawn away by the hands of the soldiers. This space having intervened, the others resume courage, so far as to venture to take their place on the fortifications and present the aspect of defenders.
The foraging having in the meantime been completed, our soldiers distinctly hear the shout; the horse hasten on before and discover in what danger the affair is. But here there is no fortification to receive them, in their alarm: those last enlisted and unskilled in military discipline turn their faces to the military tribune and the centurions; they wait to find what orders may be given by them. No one is so courageous as not to be disconcerted by the suddenness of the affair. The barbarians, espying our standard in the distance, desist from the attack; at first they suppose that the legions, which they had learned from their prisoners had removed farther off, had returned; afterwards, despising their small number, they make an attack on them at all sides.
The camp-followers run forward to the nearest rising ground; being speedily driven from this they throw themselves among the standards and companies: they thus so much the more alarm the soldiers already affrighted. Some propose that, forming a wedge, they suddenly break through, since the camp was so near; and if any part should be surrounded and slain, they fully trust that at least the rest may be saved; others, that they take their stand on an eminence, and all undergo the same destiny. The veteran soldiers, whom we stated to have set out together with the others under a standard, do not approve of this. Therefore encouraging each other, under the conduct of Caius Trebonius, a Roman knight, who had been appointed over them, they break through the midst of the enemy, and arrive in the camp safe to a man. The camp-attendants and the horse following close upon them with the same impetuosity, are saved by the courage of the soldiers. But those who had taken their stand upon the eminence having even now acquired no experience of military matters, neither could persevere in that resolution which they approved of, namely, to defend themselves from their higher position, nor imitate that vigour and speed which they had observed to have availed others; but, attempting to reach the camp, had descended into an unfavourable situation. The Centurions, some of whom had been promoted for their valour from the lower ranks of other legions to higher ranks in this legion, in order that they might not forfeit their glory for military exploits previously acquired, fell together fighting most valiantly. The enemy having been dislodged by their valour, a part of the soldiers arrived safe in camp contrary to their expectations; a part perished, surrounded by the barbarians.
The Germans, despairing of taking the camp by storm, because they saw that our men had taken up their position on the fortifications, retreated beyond the Rhine with that plunder which they had deposited in the woods. And so great was the alarm, even after the departure of the enemy, that when C. Volusenus, who had been sent with the cavalry, arrived that night, he could not gain credence that Caesar was close at hand with his army safe. Fear had so preoccupied the minds of all, that, their reason being almost estranged, they said that all the other forces having been cut off, the cavalry alone had arrived there by flight, and asserted that, if the army were safe, the Germans would not have attacked the camp: which fear the arrival of Caesar removed.
He, on his return, being well aware of the casualties of war, complained of one thing only, namely, that the cohorts had been sent away from the outposts and garrison duty, and pointed out that room ought not to have been left for even the most trivial casualty; that fortune had exercised great influence in the sudden arrival of their enemy; much greater, in that she had turned the barbarians away from the very rampart and gates of the camp. Of all which events, it seemed the most surprising that the Germans, who had crossed the Rhine with this object, that they might plunder the territories of Ambiorix, being led to the camp of the Romans, rendered Ambiorix a most acceptable service.
Caesar, having again marched to harass the enemy, after collecting a large number of auxiliaries from the neighbouring states, despatches them in all directions. All the villages and all the buildings, which each beheld, were on fire: spoil was being driven off from all parts; the corn not only was being consumed by so great numbers of cattle and men, but also had fallen to the earth, owing to the time of the year and the storms; so that if any had concealed themselves for the present, still, it appeared likely that they must perish through want of all things, when the army should be drawn off. And frequently it came to that point, as so large a body of cavalry had been sent abroad in all directions, that the prisoners declared Ambiorix had just then been seen by them in flight, and had not even passed out of sight, so that the hope of overtaking him being raised, and unbounded exertions having been resorted to, those who thought they should acquire the highest favour with Caesar, nearly overcame nature by their ardour, and continually a little only seemed wanting to complete success; but he rescued himself by means of lurking-places and forests, and, concealed by the night, made for other districts and quarters, with no greater guard than that of four horsemen, to whom alone he ventured to confide his life.
Having devastated the country in such a manner, Caesar leads back his army with the loss of two cohorts to Durocortorum of the Remi, and, having summoned a council of Gaul to assemble at that place, he resolved to hold an investigation respecting the conspiracy of the Senones and Carnutes, and having pronounced a most severe sentence upon Acco, who had been the contriver of that plot, he punished him after the custom of our ancestors. Some fearing a trial, fled; when he had forbidden these fire and water, he stationed in winter quarters two legions at the frontiers of the Treviri, two among the Lingones, the remaining six at Agendicum, in the territories of the Senones; and, having provided corn for the army, he set out for Italy, as he had determined, to hold the assizes.
Gaul being tranquil, Caesar, as he had determined, sets out for Italy to hold the provincial assizes. There he receives intelligence of the death of Clodius; and, being informed of the decree of the senate to the effect that all the youth of Italy should take the military oath, he determined to hold a levy throughout the entire province. Report of these events is rapidly borne into Transalpine Gaul. The Gauls themselves add to the report, and invent what the case seemed to require, namely that Caesar was detained by commotions in the city, and could not, amidst so violent dissensions, come to his army. Animated by this opportunity, they who already, previously to this occurrence, were indignant that they were reduced beneath the dominion of Rome, begin to organize their plans for war more openly and daringly. The leading men of Gaul, having convened councils among themselves in the woods, and retired places, complain of the death of Acco: they point out that this fate may fall in turn on themselves: they bewail the unhappy fate of Gaul; and by every sort of promises and rewards, they earnestly solicit some to begin the war, and assert the freedom of Gaul at the hazard of their lives. They say that special care should be paid to this, that Caesar should be cut off from his army, before their secret plans should be divulged. That this was easy, because neither would the legions, in the absence of their general, dare to leave their winter quarters, nor could the general reach his army without a guard: finally, that it was better to be slain in battle than not to recover their ancient glory in war, and that freedom which they had received from their forefathers.
Whilst these things are in agitation, the Carnutes declare “that they would decline no danger for the sake of the general safety,” and promise that they would be the first of all to begin the war; and since they cannot at present take precautions, by giving and receiving hostages, that the affair shall not be divulged they require that a solemn assurance be given them by oath and plighted honour, their military standards being brought together (in which manner their most sacred obligations are made binding), that they should not be deserted by the rest of the Gauls on commencing the war.
When the appointed day came, the Carnutes, under the command of Cotuatus and Conetodunus, desperate men, meet together at Genabum, and slay the Roman citizens who had settled there for the purpose of trading (among the rest, Caius Fusius Cita, a distinguished Roman knight, who by Caesar’s orders had presided over the provision department), and plunder their property. The report is quickly spread among all the states of Gaul; for, whenever a more important and remarkable event takes place, they transmit the intelligence through their lands and districts by a shout; the others take it up in succession, and pass it to their neighbours, as happened on this occasion; for the things which were done at Genabum at sunrise were heard in the territories of the Arverni before the end of the first watch, which is an extent of more than a hundred and sixty miles.
There in like manner, Vercingetorix the son of Celtillus the Arvernian, a young man of the highest power (whose father had held the supremacy of entire Gaul, and had been put to death by his fellow citizens, for this reason, because he aimed at sovereign power), summoned together his dependents, and easily excited them. On his design being made known, they rush to arms: he is expelled from the town of Gergovia by his uncle Gobanitio and the rest of the nobles, who were of opinion, that such an enterprise ought not to be hazarded: he did not however desist, but held in the country a levy of the needy and desperate. Having collected such a body of troops, he brings over to his 30 sentiments such of his fellow citizens as he has access to: he exhorts them to take up arms in behalf of the general freedom, and having assembled great forces he drives from the state his opponents, by whom he had been expelled a short time previously. He is saluted king by his partisans; he sends ambassadors in every direction, he conjures them to adhere firmly to their promise. He quickly attaches to his interests the Senones, Parisii, Pictones, Cadurci, Turones, Aulerci, Lemovice, and all the others who border on the ocean; the supreme command is conferred on him by unanimous consent. On obtaining this authority, he demands hostages from all these states, he orders a fixed number of soldiers to be sent to him immediately; he determines what quantity of arms each state shall prepare at home, and before what time; he pays particular attention to the cavalry. To the utmost vigilance he adds the utmost rigour of authority; and by the severity of his punishments brings over the wavering: for on the commission of a greater crime he puts the perpetrators to death by fire and every sort of tortures; for a slighter cause, he sends home the offenders with their ears cut off, or one of their eyes put out, that they may be an example to the rest, and frighten others by the severity of their punishment.
Having quickly collected an army by their punishments, he sends Lucterius, one of the Cadurci, a man of the utmost daring, with part of his forces, into the territory of the Ruteni; and marches in person into the country of the Bituriges. On his arrival, the Bituriges send ambassadors to the Aedui, under whose protection they were, to solicit aid in order that they might more easily resist the forces of the enemy. The Aedui, by the advice of the lieutenants whom Caesar had left with the army, send supplies of horse and foot to succour the Bituriges. When they came to the river Loire, which separates the Bituriges from the Aedui, they delayed a few days there, and, not daring to pass the river, return home, and send back word to the lieutenants that they had returned through fear of the treachery of the Bituriges, who, they ascertained, had formed this design, that if the Aedui should cross the river, the Bituriges on the one side, and the Arverni on the other, should surround them. Whether they did this for the reason which they alleged to the lieutenants, or influenced by treachery, we think that we ought not to state as certain, because we have no proof. On their departure, the Bituriges immediately unite themselves to the Arverni.
These affairs being announced to Caesar in Italy at the time when he understood that matters in the city had been reduced to a more tranquil state by the energy of Cneius Pompey, he set out for Transalpine Gaul. After he had arrived there, he was greatly at a loss to know by what means he could reach his army. For if he should summon the legions into the province, he was aware that on their march they would have to fight in his absence; he foresaw too, that if he himself should endeavour to reach the army, he would act injudiciously, in trusting his safety even to those who seemed to be tranquillized.
In the meantime Lucterius the Cadurcan, having been sent into the country of the Ruteni, gains over that state to the Arverni. Having advanced into the country of the Nitiobriges, and Gabali, he receives hostages from both nations, and, assembling a numerous force, marches to make a descent on the province in the direction of Narbo. Caesar, when this circumstance was announced to him, thought that the march to Narbo ought to take the precedence of all his other plans. When he arrived there, he encourages the timid, and stations garrisons among the Ruteni, in the province of the Volcae Arecomici, and the country around Narbo which was in the vicinity of the enemy; he orders a portion of the forces from the province, and the recruits which he had brought from Italy, to rendezvous among the Helvii who border on the territories of the Arverni.
These matters being arranged, and Lucterius now checked and forced to retreat, because he thought it dangerous to enter the line of Roman garrisons, Caesar marches into the country of the Helvii; although mount Cevennes, which separates the Arverni from the Helvii, blocked up the way with very deep snow, as it was the severest season of the year; yet having cleared away the snow to the depth of six feet, and having opened the roads, he reaches the territories of the Arverni, with infinite labour to his soldiers. This people being surprised, because they considered themselves defended by the Cevennes as by a wall, and the paths at this season of the year had never before been passable even to individuals, he orders the cavalry to extend themselves as far as they could, and strike as great a panic as possible into the enemy. These proceedings are speedily announced to Vercingetorix by rumour and his messengers. Around him all the Arverni crowd in alarm, and solemnly entreat him to protect their property, and not to suffer them to be plundered by the enemy, especially as he saw that all the war was transferred into their country. Being prevailed upon by their entreaties he moves his camp from the country of the Bituriges in the direction of the Arverni.
Caesar, having delayed two days in that place, because he had anticipated that, in the natural course of events, such would be the conduct of Vercingetorix, leaves the army under pretence of raising recruits and cavalry: he places Brutus, a young man, in command of these forces; he gives him instructions that the cavalry should range as extensively as possible in all directions; that he would exert himself not to be absent from the camp longer than three days. Having arranged these matters, he marches to Vienna by as long journeys as he can, when his own soldiers did not expect him. Finding there a fresh body of cavalry, which he had sent on to that place several days before, marching incessantly night and day, he advanced rapidly through the territory of the Aedui into that of the Lingones, in which two legions were wintering, that, if any plan affecting his own safety should have been organised by the Aedui, he might defeat it by the rapidity of his movements. When he arrived there, he sends information to the rest of the legions, and gathers all his army into one place before intelligence of his arrival could be announced to the Arverni.
Vercingetorix, on hearing this circumstance, leads back his army into the country of the Bituriges; and after marching from it to Gergovia, a town of the Boii, whom Caesar had settled there after defeating them in the Helvetian war, and had rendered tributary to the Aedui, he determined to attack it.
This action caused great perplexity to Caesar in the selection of his plans; he feared lest, if he should confine his legions in one place for the remaining portion of the winter, all Gaul should revolt when the tributaries of the Aedui were subdued, because it would appear that there was in him no protection for his friends; but if he should draw them too soon out of their winter quarters, he might be distressed by the want of provisions, in consequence of the difficulty of conveyance. It seemed better, however, to endure every hardship than to alienate the affections of all his allies, by submitting to such an insult. Having, therefore, impressed on the Aedui the necessity of supplying him with provisions, he sends forward messengers to the Boii to inform them of his arrival, and encourage them to remain firm in their allegiance, and resist the attack of the enemy with great resolution. Having left two legions and the luggage of the entire army at Agendicum, he marches to the Boii.
On the second day, when he came to Vellaunodunum, a town of the Senones, he determined to attack it, in order that he might not leave an enemy in his rear, and might the more easily procure supplies of provisions, and drew a line of circumvallation around it in two days: on the third day, ambassadors being sent from the town to treat of a capitulation, he orders their arms to be brought together, their cattle to be brought forth, and six hundred hostages to be given. He leaves Caius Trebonius, his lieutenant, to complete these arrangements; he himself sets out with the intention of marching as soon as possible to Genabum, a town of the Carnutes, who having then for the first time received information of the siege of Vellaunodunum, as they thought that it would be protracted to a longer time, were preparing a garrison to send to Genabum for the defence of that town. Caesar arrived here in two days; after pitching his camp before the town, being prevented by the time of the day, he defers the attack to the next day, and orders his soldiers to prepare whatever was necessary for that enterprise; and as a bridge over the Loire connected the town of Genabum with the opposite bank, fearing lest the inhabitants should escape by night from the town, he orders two legions to keep watch under arms. The people of Genabum came forth silently from the city before midnight, and began to cross the river. When this circumstance was announced by scouts, Caesar, having set fire to the gates, sends in the legions which he had ordered to be ready, and obtains possession of the town so completely, that very few of the whole number of the enemy escaped being taken alive, because the narrowness of the bridge and the roads prevented the multitude from escaping. He pillages and burns the town, gives the booty to the soldiers, then leads his army over the Loire, and marches into the territories of the Bituriges.
Vercingetorix, when he ascertained the arrival of Caesar, desisted from the siege of Gergovia, and marched to meet Caesar. The latter had commenced to besiege Noviodunum; and when ambassadors came from this town to beg that he would pardon them and spare their lives, in order that he might execute the rest of his designs with the rapidity by which he had accomplished most of them, he orders their arms to be collected, their horses to be brought forth, and hostages to be given. A part of the hostages being now delivered up, when the rest of the terms were being performed, a few centurions and soldiers being sent into the town to collect the arms and horses, the enemy’s cavalry, which had outstripped the main body of Vercingetorix’s army, was seen at a distance; as soon as the townsmen beheld them, and entertained hopes of assistance, raising a shout, they began to take up arms, shut the gates, and line the walls. When the centurions in the town understood from the signal-making of the Gauls that they were forming some new design, they drew their swords and seized the gates, and recovered all their men safe.
Caesar orders the horse to be drawn out of the camp, and commences a cavalry action. His men being now distressed, Caesar sends to their aid about four hundred German horse, which he had determined, at the beginning, to keep with himself. The Gauls could not withstand their attack, but were put to flight, and retreated to their main body, after losing a great number of men. When they were routed, the townsmen, again intimidated, arrested those persons by whose exertions they thought that the mob had been roused, and brought them to Caesar, and surrendered themselves to him. When these affairs were accomplished, Caesar marched to the Avaricum, which was the largest and best fortified town in the territories of the Bituriges, and situated in a most fertile tract of country; because he confidently expected that on taking that town, he would reduce beneath his dominion the state of the Bituriges.
Vercingetorix, after sustaining such a series of losses at Vellaunodunum, Genabum, and Noviodunum, summons his men to a council. He impresses on them that the war must be prosecuted on a very different system from that which had been previously adopted; but they should by all means aim at this object, that the Romans should be prevented from foraging and procuring provisions; that this was easy, because they themselves were well supplied with cavalry and were likewise assisted by the season of the year; that forage could not be cut; that the enemy must necessarily disperse, and look for it in the houses, that all these might be daily destroyed by the horse. Besides that the interests of private property must be neglected for the sake of the general safety; that the villages and houses ought to be fired, over such an extent of country in every direction from Boia, as the Romans appeared capable of scouring in their search for forage. That an abundance of these necessaries could be supplied to them, because they would be assisted by the resources of those in whose territories the war would be waged: that the Romans either would not bear the privation, or else would advance to any distance from the camp with considerable danger; and that it made no difference whether they slew them or stripped them of their baggage, since, if it was lost, they could not carry on the war. Besides that, the towns ought to be burnt which were not secured against every danger by their fortifications or natural advantages; that there should not be places of retreat for their own countrymen for declining military service, nor be exposed to the Romans as inducements to carry off abundance of provisions and plunder. If these sacrifices should appear heavy or galling, that they ought to consider it much more distressing that their wives and children should be dragged off to slavery, and themselves slain; the evils which must necessarily befall the conquered.
This opinion having been approved of by unanimous consent, more than twenty towns of the Bituriges are burnt in one day. Conflagrations are beheld in every quarter; and although all bore this with great regret, yet they laid before themselves this consolation, that, as the victory was certain, they could quickly recover their losses. There is a debate concerning Avaricum in the general council, whether they should decide that it should be burnt or defended. The Bituriges threw themselves at the feet of all the Gauls, and entreat that they should not be compelled to set fire with their own hands to the fairest city of almost the whole of Gaul, which was both a protection and ornament to the state; they say that “they could easily defend it, owing to the nature of the ground, for, being enclosed almost on every side by a river and a marsh, it had only one entrance, and that very narrow.” Permission being granted to them at their earnest request, Vercingetorix at first dissuades them from it, but afterwards concedes the point, owing to their entreaties and the compassion of the soldiers. A proper garrison is selected for the town.
Vercingetorix follows closely upon Caesar by shorter marches, and selects for his camp a place defended by woods and marshes, at the distance of fifteen miles from Avaricum. There he received intelligence by trusty scouts, every hour in the day, of what was going on at Avaricum, and ordered whatever he wished to be done; he closely watched all our expeditions for corn and forage, and whenever they were compelled to go to a greater distance, he attacked them when dispersed, and inflicted severe loss upon them; although the evil was remedied by our men, as far as precautions could be taken, by going forth at irregular times, and by different ways.
Caesar pitching his camp at that side of the town which was not defended by the river and marsh, and had a very narrow approach, as we have mentioned, began to raise the vineae and erect two towers; for the nature of the place prevented him from drawing a line of circumvallation. He never ceased to importune the Boii and Aedui for supplies of corn; of whom the one [the Aedui], because they were acting with no zeal, did not aid him much; the others [the Boii], as their resources were not great, quickly consumed what they had. Although the army was distressed by the greatest want of corn, through the poverty of the Boii, the apathy of the Aedui, and the burning of the houses, to such a degree, that for several days the soldiers were without corn, and satisfied their extreme hunger with cattle driven from the remote villages; yet no language was heard from them unworthy of the majesty of the Roman people and their former victories. Moreover, when Caesar addressed the legions, one by one, when at work, and said that he would raise the siege, if they felt the scarcity too severely, they unanimously begged him “not to do so; that they had served for several years under his command in such a manner, that they never submitted to insult, and never abandoned an enterprise without accomplishing it; that they should consider it a disgrace if they abandoned the siege after commencing it; that it was better to endure every hardship than not to avenge the manes of the Roman citizens who perished at Genabum by the perfidy of the Gauls.” They entrusted the same declarations to the centurions and military tribunes, that through them they might be communicated to Caesar.
When the towers had now approached the walls, Caesar ascertained from the captives that Vercingetorix, after destroying the forage, had pitched his camp nearer Avaricum, and that he himself with the cavalry and light-armed infantry, who generally fought among the horse, had gone to lay an ambuscade in that quarter to which he thought that our troops would come the next day to forage. On learning these facts, he set out from the camp secretly at midnight, and reached the camp of the enemy early in the morning. They having quickly learned the arrival of Caesar by scouts, hid their cars and baggage in the thickest parts of the woods, and drew up all their forces in a lofty and open space: which circumstance being announced, Caesar immediately ordered the baggage to be piled, and the arms to be got ready.
There was a hill of a gentle ascent from the bottom; a dangerous and impassable marsh, not more than fifty feet broad, begirt it on almost every side. The Gauls, having broken down the bridges, posted themselves on this hill, in confidence of their position, and being drawn up in tribes according to their respective states, held all the fords and passages of that marsh with trusty guards, thus determined that if the Romans should attempt to force the marsh, they would overpower them from the higher ground while sticking in it, so that whoever saw the nearness of the position, would imagine that the two armies were prepared to fight on almost equal terms; but whoever should view accurately the disadvantage of position, would discover that they were showing off an empty affectation of courage. Caesar clearly points out to his soldiers, who were indignant that the enemy could bear the sight of them at the distance of so short a space, and were earnestly demanding the signal for action, “with how great loss and the death of how many gallant men the victory would necessarily be purchased: and when he saw them so determined to decline no danger for his renown, that he ought to be considered guilty of the utmost injustice if he did not hold their life dearer than his own personal safety.” Having thus consoled his soldiers, he leads them back on the same day to the camp, and determined to prepare the other things which were necessary for the siege of the town.
Vercingetorix, when he had returned to his men, was accused of treason, in that he had moved his camp nearer the Romans, in that he had gone away with all the cavalry, in that he had left so great forces without a commander, in that, on his departure, the Romans had come at such a favourable season, and with such despatch; that all these circumstances could not have happened accidentally or without design; that he preferred holding the sovereignty of Gaul by the grant of Caesar, to acquiring it by their favour. Being accused in such a manner, he made the following reply to these charges:—“That his moving his camp had been caused by want of forage, and had been done even by their advice; that his approaching near the Romans had been a measure dictated by the favourable nature of the ground, which would defend him by its natural strength; that the service of the cavalry could not have been requisite in marshy ground, and was useful in that place to which they had gone; that he, on his departure, had given the supreme command to no one intentionally, lest he should be induced by the eagerness of the multitude to hazard an engagement, to which he perceived that all were inclined, owing to their want of energy, because they were unable to endure fatigue any longer. That, if the Romans in the meantime came up by chance, they [the Gauls] should feel grateful to fortune; if invited by the information of someone they should feel grateful to him, because they were enabled to see distinctly from the higher ground the smallness of the number of their enemy, and despise the courage of those who, not daring to fight, retreated disgracefully into their camp. That he desired no power from Caesar by treachery, since he could have it by victory, which was now assured to himself and to all the Gauls; nay, that he would even give them back the command, if they thought that they conferred honour on him, rather then received safety from him. That you may be assured,” said he, “that I speak these words with truth;—listen to these Roman soldiers!” He produces some camp-followers whom he had surprised on a foraging expedition some days before, and had tortured by famine and confinement. They being previously instructed in what answers they should make when examined, say, “That they were legionary soldiers, that, urged by famine and want, they had recently gone forth from the camp, to see if they could find any corn or cattle in the fields; that the whole army was distressed by a similar scarcity, nor had anyone now sufficient strength, nor could bear the labour of the work; and therefore that the general was determined, if he made no progress in the siege, to draw off his army in three days.” “These benefits,” says Vercingetorix, “you receive from me, whom you accuse of treason—me, by whose exertions you see so powerful and victorious an army almost destroyed by famine, without shedding one drop of your blood; and I have taken precautions that no state shall admit within its territories this army in its ignominious flight from this place.”
The whole multitude raise a shout and clash their arms, according to their custom, as they usually do in the case of him whose speech they approve; they exclaim that Vercingetorix was a consummate general, and that they had no doubt of his honour; that the war could not be conducted with greater prudence. They determine that ten thousand men should be picked out of the entire army and sent into the town, and decide that the general safety should not be entrusted to the Bituriges alone, because they were aware that the glory of the victory must rest with the Bituriges, if they made good the defence of the town.
To the extraordinary valour of our soldiers, devices of every sort were opposed by the Gauls; since they are a nation of consummate ingenuity, and most skilful in imitating and making those things which are imparted by anyone; for they turned aside the hooks with nooses, and when they had caught hold of them firmly, drew them on by means of engines, and undermined the mound the more skilfully on this account, because there are in their territories extensive iron mines, and consequently every description of mining operations is known and practised by them. They had furnished, moreover, the whole wall on every side with turrets, and had covered them with skins. Besides, in their frequent sallies by day and night, they attempted either to set fire to the mound, or attack our soldiers when engaged in the works; and, moreover, by splicing the upright timbers of their own towers, they equalled the height of ours, as fast as the mound had daily raised them, and countermined our mines, and impeded the working of them by stakes bent and sharpened at the ends, and boiling pitch, and stones of very great weight, and prevented them from approaching the walls.
But this is usually the form of all the Gallic walls. Straight beams, connected lengthwise and two feet distant from each other at equal intervals, are placed together on the ground; these are mortised on the inside, and covered with plenty of earth. But the intervals which we have mentioned, are closed up in front by large stones. These being thus laid and cemented together, another row is added above, in such a manner that the same interval may be observed, and that the beams may not touch one another, but equal spaces intervening, each row of beams is kept firmly in its place by a row of stones. In this manner the whole wall is consolidated, until the regular height of the wall be completed. This work, with respect to appearance and variety, is not unsightly, owing to the alternate rows of beams and stones, which preserve their order in right lines; and, besides, it possesses great advantages as regards utility and the defence of cities; for the stone protects it from fire, and the wood from the battering ram, since it [the wood] being mortised in the inside with rows of beams, generally forty feet each in length, can neither be broken through nor torn asunder.
The siege having been impeded by so many disadvantages, the soldiers, although they were retarded during the whole time, by the mud, cold, and constant showers, yet by their incessant labour overcame all these obstacles, and in twenty-five days raised a mound three hundred and thirty feet broad and eighty feet high. When it almost touched the enemy’s walls, and Caesar, according to his usual custom, kept watch at the work, and encouraged the soldiers not to discontinue the work for a moment: a little before the third watch they discovered that the mound was sinking, since the enemy had set it on fire by a mine; and at the same time a shout was raised along the entire wall, and a sally was made from two gates on each side of the turrets. Some at a distance were casting torches and dry wood from the wall on the mound, others were pouring on it pitch, and other materials, by which the flame might be excited, so that a plan could hardly be formed, as to where they should first run to the defence, or to what part aid should be brought. However, as two legions always kept guard before the camp by Caesar’s orders, and several of them were at stated times at the work, measures were promptly taken, that some should oppose the sallying party, others draw back the towers and make a cut in the rampart; and moreover, that the whole army should hasten from the camp to extinguish the flames.
When the battle was going on in every direction, the rest of the night being now spent, and fresh hopes of victory always arose before the enemy: the more so on this account because they saw the coverings of our towers burnt away, and perceived that we, being exposed, could not easily go to give assistance, and they themselves were always relieving the weary with fresh men, and considered that all the safety of Gaul rested on this crisis; there happened in my own view a circumstance which, having appeared to be worthy of record, we thought it ought not to be omitted. A certain Gaul before the gate of the town, who was casting into the fire opposite the turret balls of tallow and fire which were passed along to him, was pierced with a dart on the right side and fell dead. One of those next him stepped over him as he lay, and discharged the same office: when the second man was slain in the same manner by a wound from a crossbow, a third succeeded him, and a fourth succeeded the third: nor was this post left vacant by the besieged, until, the fire of the mound having been extinguished, and the enemy repulsed in every direction, an end was put to the fighting.
The Gauls having tried every expedient, as nothing had succeeded, adopted the design of fleeing from the town the next day, by the advice and order of Vercingetorix. They hoped that, by attempting it at the dead of night, they would effect it without any great loss of men, because the camp of Vercingetorix was not far distant from the town, and the extensive marsh which intervened was likely to retard the Romans in the pursuit. And they were now preparing to execute this by night, when the matrons suddenly ran out into the streets, and weeping cast themselves at the feet of their husbands, and requested of them, with every entreaty, that they should not abandon themselves and their common children to the enemy for punishment, because the weakness of their nature and physical powers prevented them from taking to flight. When they saw that they (as fear does not generally admit of mercy in extreme danger) persisted in their resolution, they began to shout aloud, and give intelligence of their flight to the Romans. The Gauls being intimidated by fear of this, lest the passes should be preoccupied by the Roman cavalry, desisted from their design.
The next day Caesar, the tower being advanced, and the works which he had determined to raise being arranged, a violent storm arising, thought this no bad time for executing his designs, because he observed the guards arranged on the walls a little too negligently, and therefore ordered his own men to engage in their work more remissly, and pointed out what he wished to be done. He drew up his soldiers in a secret position within the vineae, and exhorts them to reap, at least, the harvest of victory proportionate to their exertions. He proposed a reward for those who should first scale the walls, and gave the signal to the soldiers. They suddenly flew out from all quarters and quickly filled the wall.
The enemy being alarmed by the suddenness of the attack, were dislodged from the wall and towers, and drew up, in form of a wedge, in the marketplace and the open streets, with this intention that, if an attack should be made on any side, they should fight with their line drawn up to receive it. When they saw no one descending to the level ground, and the enemy extending themselves along the entire wall in every direction, fearing lest every hope of flight should be cut off, they cast away their arms, and sought, without stopping, the most remote parts of the town. A part was then slain by the infantry when they were crowding upon one another in the narrow passage of the gates; and a part having got without the gates, were cut to pieces by the cavalry: nor was there one who was anxious for the plunder. Thus, being excited by the massacre at Genabum and the fatigue of the siege, they spared neither those worn out with years, women, or children. Finally, out of all that number, which amounted to about forty thousand, scarcely eight hundred, who fled from the town when they heard the first alarm, reached Vercingetorix in safety: and he, the night being now far spent, received them in silence after their flight (fearing that any sedition should arise in the camp from their entrance in a body and the compassion of the soldiers), so that, having arranged his friends and the chiefs of the states at a distance on the road, he took precautions that they should be separated and conducted to their fellow countrymen, to whatever part of the camp had been assigned to each state from the beginning.
Vercingetorix having convened an assembly on the following day, consoled and encouraged his soldiers in the following words:—“That they should not be too much depressed in spirit, nor alarmed at their loss; that the Romans did not conquer by valour nor in the field, but by a kind of art and skill in assault, with which they themselves were unacquainted; that whoever expected every event in the war to be favourable, erred; that it never was his opinion that Avaricum should be defended, of the truth of which statement he had themselves as witnesses, but that it was owing to the imprudence of the Bituriges, and the too ready compliance of the rest, that this loss was sustained; that, however, he would soon compensate it by superior advantages; for that he would, by his exertions, bring over those states which severed themselves from the rest of the Gauls, and would create a general unanimity throughout the whole of Gaul, the union of which not even the whole earth could withstand, and that he had it already almost effected; that in the meantime it was reasonable that he should prevail on them, for the sake of the general safety, to begin to fortify their camp, in order that they might the more easily sustain the sudden attacks of the enemy.”
This speech was not disagreeable to the Gauls, principally, because he himself was not disheartened by receiving so severe a loss, and had not concealed himself, nor shunned the eyes of the people: and he was believed to possess greater foresight and sounder judgment than the rest, because, when the affair was undecided, he had at first been of opinion that Avaricum should be burnt, and afterwards that it should be abandoned. Accordingly, as ill success weakens the authority of other generals, so, on the contrary, his dignity increased daily, although a loss was sustained: at the same time they began to entertain hopes, on his assertion, of uniting the rest of the states to themselves, and on this occasion, for the first time, the Gauls began to fortify their camps, and were so alarmed that although they were men unaccustomed to toil, yet they were of opinion that they ought to endure and suffer everything which should be imposed upon them.
Nor did Vercingetorix use less efforts than he had promised, to gain over the other states, and in consequence endeavoured to entice their leaders by gifts and promises. For this object he selected fitting emissaries by whose subtle pleading or private friendship each of the nobles could be most easily influenced. He takes care that those who fled to him on the storming of Avaricum should be provided with arms and clothes. At the same time, that his diminished forces should be recruited, he levies a fixed quota of soldiers from each state, and defines the number and day before which he should wish them brought to the camp, and orders all the archers, of whom there was a very great number in Gaul, to be collected and sent to him. By these means, the troops which were lost at Avaricum are speedily replaced. In the meantime, Teutomarus, the son of Ollovicon, the king of the Nitiobriges, whose father had received the appellation of friend from our senate, came to him with a great number of his own horse and those whom he had hired from Aquitania.
Caesar, after delaying several days at Avaricum, and finding there the greatest plenty of corn and other provisions, refreshed his army after their fatigue and privation. The winter being almost ended, when he was invited by the favourable season of the year to prosecute the war and march against the enemy, and try whether he could draw them from the marshes and woods, or else press them by a blockade; some noblemen of the Aedui came to him as ambassadors to entreat “that in an extreme emergency he should succour their state; that their affairs were in the utmost danger, because, whereas single magistrates had been usually appointed in ancient times and held the power of king for a single year, two persons now exercised this office, and each asserted that he was appointed according to their laws. That one of them was Convictolitanis, a powerful and illustrious youth; the other Cotus, sprung from a most ancient family, and personally a man of very great influence and extensive connections. His brother Valetiacus had borne the same office during the last year: that the whole state was up in arms; the senate divided, the people divided; that each of them had his own adherents; and that, if the animosity would be fomented any longer the result would be that one part of the state would come to a collision with the other; that it rested with his activity and influence to prevent it.”
Although Caesar considered it ruinous to leave the war and the enemy, yet, being well aware what great evils generally arise from internal dissensions, lest a state so powerful and so closely connected with the Roman people, which he himself had always fostered and honoured in every respect, should have recourse to violence and arms, and that the party which had less confidence in its own power should summon aid from Vercingetorix, he determined to anticipate this movement; and because, by the laws of the Aedui, it was not permitted those who held the supreme authority to leave the country, he determined to go in person to the Aedui, lest he should appear to infringe upon their government and laws, and summoned all the senate, and those between whom the dispute was, to meet him at Decetia. When almost all the state had assembled there, and he was informed that one brother had been declared magistrate by the other, when only a few persons were privately summoned for the purpose, at a different time and place from what he ought, whereas the laws not only forbade two belonging to one family to be elected magistrates while each was alive, but even deterred them from being in the senate, he compelled Cotus to resign his office; he ordered Convictolitanis, who had been elected by the priests, according to the usage of the state, in the presence of the magistrates, to hold the supreme authority.
Having pronounced this decree between the contending parties, he exhorted the Aedui to bury in oblivion their disputes and dissensions, and, laying aside all these things, devote themselves to the war, and expect from him, on the conquest of Gaul, those rewards which they should have earned, and send speedily to him all their cavalry and ten thousand infantry, which he might place in different garrisons to protect his convoys of provisions, and then divided his army into two parts: he gave Labienus four legions to lead into the country of the Senones and Parisii; and led in person six into the country of the Arverni, in the direction of the town of Gergovia, along the banks of the Allier. He gave part of the cavalry to Labienus, and kept part to himself. Vercingetorix, on learning this circumstance, broke down all the bridges over the river and began to march on the other bank of the Allier.
When each army was in sight of the other, and was pitching their camp almost opposite that of the enemy, scouts being distributed in every quarter, lest the Romans should build a bridge and bring over their troops; it was to Caesar a matter attended with great difficulties, lest he should be hindered from passing the river during the greater part of the summer, as the Allier cannot generally be forded before the autumn. Therefore, that this might not happen, having pitched his camp in a woody place opposite to one of those bridges which Vercingetorix had taken care should be broken down, the next day he stopped behind with two legions in a secret place: he sent on the rest of the forces as usual, with all the baggage, after having selected some cohorts, that the number of the legions might appear to be complete. Having ordered these to advance as far as they could, when now, from the time of day, he conjectured they had come to an encampment, he began to rebuild the bridge on the same piles, the lower part of which remained entire. Having quickly finished the work and led his legions across, he selected a fit place for a camp, and recalled the rest of his troops. Vercingetorix, on ascertaining this fact, went before him by forced marches, in order that he might not be compelled to come to an action against his will.
Caesar, in five days’ march, went from that place to Gergovia, and after engaging in a slight cavalry skirmish that day, on viewing the situation of the city, which, being built on a very high mountain, was very difficult of access, he despaired of taking it by storm, and determined to take no measures with regard to besieging it before he should secure a supply of provisions. But Vercingetorix, having pitched his camp on the mountain near the town, placed the forces of each state separately and at small intervals around himself, and having occupied all the hills of that range as far as they commanded a view of the Roman encampment, he presented a formidable appearance; he ordered the rulers of the states, whom he had selected as his council of war, to come to him daily at the dawn, whether any measure seemed to require deliberation or execution. Nor did he allow almost any day to pass without testing in a cavalry action, the archers being intermixed, what spirit and valour there was in each of his own men. There was a hill opposite the town, at the very foot of that mountain, strongly fortified and precipitous on every side (which if our men could gain, they seemed likely to exclude the enemy from a great share of their supply of water, and from free foraging; but this place was occupied by them with a weak garrison): however, Caesar set out from the camp in the silence of night, and dislodging the garrison before succour could come from the town, he got possession of the place and posted two legions there, and drew from the greater camp to the less a double trench twelve feet broad, so that the soldiers could even singly pass secure from any sudden attack of the enemy.
Whilst these affairs were going on at Gergovia, Convictolitanis, the Aeduan, to whom we have observed the magistracy was adjudged by Caesar, being bribed by the Arverni, holds a conference with certain young men, the chief of whom were Litavicus and his brothers, who were born of a most noble family. He shares the bribe with them, and exhorts them to “remember that they were free and born for empire; that the state of the Aedui was the only one which retarded the most certain victory of the Gauls; that the rest were held in check by its authority; and, if it was brought over, the Romans would not have room to stand on in Gaul; that he had received some kindness from Caesar, only so far, however, as gaining a most just cause by his decision; but that he assigned more weight to the general freedom; for, why should the Aedui go to Caesar to decide concerning their rights and laws, rather than the Romans come to the Aedui?” The young men being easily won over by the speech of the magistrate and the bribe, when they declared that they would even be leaders in the plot, a plan for accomplishing it was considered, because they were confident their state could not be induced to undertake the war on slight grounds. It was resolved that Litavicus should have the command of the ten thousand which were being sent to Caesar for the war, and should have charge of them on their march, and that his brothers should go before him to Caesar. They arrange the other measures, and the manner in which they should have them done.
Litavicus, having received the command of the army, suddenly convened the soldiers, when he was about thirty miles distant from Gergovia, and, weeping, said, “Soldiers, whither are we going? All our knights and all our nobles have perished. Eporedorix and Viridomarus, the principal men of the state, being accused of treason, have been slain by the Romans without even permission to plead their cause. Learn this intelligence from those who have escaped from the massacre; for I, since my brothers and all my relations have been slain, am prevented by grief from declaring what has taken place.” Persons are brought forward whom he had instructed in what he would have them say, and make the same statements to the soldiery as Litavicus had made: that all the knights of the Aedui were slain because they were said to have held conferences with the Arverni; that they had concealed themselves among the multitude of soldiers, and had escaped from the midst of the slaughter. The Aedui shout aloud and conjure Litavicus to provide for their safety. “As if,” said he, “it were a matter of deliberation, and not of necessity, for us to go to Gergovia and unite ourselves to the Arverni. Or have we any reasons to doubt that the Romans, after perpetrating the atrocious crime, are now hastening to slay us? Therefore, if there be any spirit in us, let us avenge the death of those who have perished in a most unworthy manner, and let us slay these robbers.” He points to the Roman citizens, who had accompanied them, in reliance on his protection. He immediately seizes a great quantity of corn and provisions, cruelly tortures them, and then puts them to death, sends messengers throughout the entire state of the Aedui, and rouses them completely by the same falsehood concerning the slaughter of their knights and nobles; he earnestly advises them to avenge, in the same manner as he did, the wrongs which they had received.
Eporedorix, the Aeduan, a young man born in the highest rank and possessing very great influence at home, and, along with Viridomarus, of equal age and influence, but of inferior birth, whom Caesar had raised from a humble position to the highest rank, on being recommended to him by Divitiacus, had come in the number of horse, being summoned by Caesar by name. These had a dispute with each other for precedence, and in the struggle between the magistrates they had contended with their utmost efforts, the one for Convictolitanis, the other for Cotus. Of these Eporedorix, on learning the design of Litavicus, lays the matter before Caesar almost at midnight; he entreats that Caesar should not suffer their state to swerve from the alliance with the Roman people, owing to the depraved counsels of a few young men, which he foresaw would be the consequence if so many thousand men should unite themselves to the enemy, as their relations could not neglect their safety, nor the state regard it as a matter of slight importance.
Caesar felt great anxiety on this intelligence, because he had always especially indulged the state of the Aedui, and, without any hesitation, draws out from the camp four light-armed legions and all the cavalry: nor had he time, at such a crisis, to contract the camp, because the affair seemed to depend upon despatch. He leaves Caius Fabius, his lieutenant, with two legions to guard the camp. When he ordered the brothers of Litavicus to be arrested, he discovers that they had fled a short time before to the camp of the enemy. He encouraged his soldiers “not to be disheartened by the labour of the journey on such a necessary occasion,” and, after advancing twenty-five miles, all being most eager, he came in sight of the army of the Aedui, and, by sending on his cavalry, retards and impedes their march; he then issues strict orders to all his soldiers to kill no one. He commands Eporedorix and Viridomarus, who they thought were killed, to move among the cavalry and address their friends. When they were recognized and the treachery of Litavicus discovered, the Aedui began to extend their hands to intimate submission, and, laying down their arms, to deprecate death. Litavicus, with his clansmen, who after the custom of the Gauls consider it a crime to desert their patrons, even in extreme misfortune, flees forth to Gergovia.
Caesar, after sending messengers to the state of the Aedui, to inform them that they whom he could have put to death by the right of war were spared through his kindness, and after giving three hours of the night to his army for his repose, directed his march to Gergovia. Almost in the middle of the journey, a party of horse that were sent by Fabius stated in how great danger matters were; they inform him that the camp was attacked by a very powerful army, while fresh men were frequently relieving the wearied, and exhausting our soldiers by the incessant toil, since, on account of the size of the camp, they had constantly to remain on the rampart; that many had been wounded by the immense number of arrows and all kinds of missiles; that the engines were of great service in withstanding them; that Fabius, at their departure, leaving only two gates open, was blocking up the rest, and was adding breastworks to the ramparts, and was preparing himself for a similar casualty on the following day. Caesar, after receiving this information, reached the camp before sunrise owing to the very great zeal of his soldiers.
Whilst these things are going on at Gergovia, the Aedui, on receiving the first announcements from Litavicus, leave themselves no time to ascertain the truth of these statements. Some are stimulated by avarice, others by revenge and credulity, which is an innate propensity in that race of men to such a degree that they consider a slight rumour as an ascertained fact. They plunder the property of the Roman citizens, and either massacre them or drag them away to slavery. Convictolitanis increases the evil state of affairs, and goads on the people to fury, that by the commission of some outrage they may be ashamed to return to propriety. They entice from the town of Cabillonus, by a promise of safety, Marcus Aristius, a military tribune, who was on his march to his legion; they compel those who had settled there for the purpose of trading to do the same. By constantly attacking them on their march they strip them of all their baggage; they besiege day and night those that resisted; when many were slain on both sides, they excite a greater number to arms.
In the meantime, when intelligence was brought that all their soldiers were in Caesar’s power, they run in a body to Aristius; they assure him that nothing had been done by public authority; they order an inquiry to be made about the plundered property; they confiscate the property of Litavicus and his brothers; they send ambassadors to Caesar for the purpose of clearing themselves. They do all this with a view to recover their soldiers; but being contaminated by guilt, and charmed by the gains arising from the plundered property, as that act was shared in by many, and being tempted by the fear of punishment, they began to form plans of war and stir up the other states by embassies. Although Caesar was aware of this proceeding, yet he addresses the ambassadors with as much mildness as he can: “That he did not think worse of the state on account of the ignorance and fickleness of the mob, nor would diminish his regard for the Aedui.” He himself, fearing a greater commotion in Gaul, in order to prevent his being surrounded by all the states, began to form plans as to the manner in which he should return from Gergovia and again concentrate his forces, lest a departure arising from the fear of a revolt should seem like a flight.
Whilst he was considering these things an opportunity of acting successfully seemed to offer. For, when he had come into the smaller camp for the purpose of securing the works, he noticed that the hill in the possession of the enemy was stripped of men, although, on the former days, it could scarcely be seen on account of the numbers on it. Being astonished, he inquires the reason of it from the deserters, a great number of whom flocked to him daily. They all concurred in asserting, what Caesar himself had already ascertained by his scouts, that the back of that hill was almost level; but likewise woody and narrow, by which there was a pass to the other side of the town; that they had serious apprehensions for this place, and had no other idea, on the occupation of one hill by the Romans, than that, if they should lose the other, they would be almost surrounded, and cut off from all egress and foraging; that they were all summoned by Vercingetorix to fortify this place.
Caesar, on being informed of this circumstance, sends several troops of horse to the place immediately after midnight; he orders them to range in every quarter with more tumult than usual. At dawn he orders a large quantity of baggage to be drawn out of the camp, and the muleteers with helmets, in the appearance and guise of horsemen, to ride round the hills. To these he adds a few cavalry, with instructions to range more widely to make a show. He orders them all to seek the same quarter by a long circuit; these proceedings were seen at a distance from the town, as Gergovia commanded a view of the camp, nor could the Gauls ascertain at so great a distance what certainty there was in the manoeuvre. He sends one legion to the same hill, and after it had marched a little, stations it in the lower ground, and conceals it in the woods. The suspicions of the Gauls are increased, and all their forces are marched to that place to defend it. Caesar, having perceived the camp of the enemy deserted, covers the military insignia of his men, conceals the standards, and transfers his soldiers in small bodies from the greater to the less camp, and points out to the lieutenants whom he had placed in command over the respective legions, what he should wish to be done; he particularly advises them to restrain their men from advancing too far, through their desire of fighting, or their hope of plunder; he sets before them what disadvantages the unfavourable nature of the ground carries with it; that they could be assisted by despatch alone: that success depended on a surprise, and not on a battle. After stating these particulars, he gives the signal for action, and detaches the Aedui at the same time by another ascent an the right.
The town wall was 1200 paces distant from the plain and foot of the ascent, in a straight line, if no gap intervened; whatever circuit was added to this ascent, to make the hill easy, increased the length of the route. But almost in the middle of the hill, the Gauls had previously built a wall six feet high, made of large stones, and extending in length as far as the nature of the ground permitted, as a barrier to retard the advance of our men; and leaving all the lower space empty, they had filled the upper part of the hill, as far as the wall of the town, with their camps very close to one another. The soldiers, on the signal being given, quickly advance to this fortification, and passing over it, make themselves masters of the separate camps. And so great was their activity in taking the camps, that Teutomarus, the king of the Nitiobriges, being suddenly surprised in his tent, as he had gone to rest at noon, with difficulty escaped from the hands of the plunderers, with the upper part of his person naked, and his horse wounded.
Caesar, having accomplished the object which he had in view, ordered the signal to be sounded for a retreat; and the soldiers of the tenth legion, by which he was then accompanied, halted. But the soldiers of the other legions, not hearing the sound of the trumpet, because there was a very large valley between them, were however kept back by the tribunes of the soldiers and the lieutenants, according to Caesar’s orders; but being animated by the prospect of speedy victory, and the flight of the enemy, and the favourable battles of former periods, they thought nothing so difficult that their bravery could not accomplish it; nor did they put an end to the pursuit, until they drew nigh to the wall of the town and the gates. But then, when a shout arose in every quarter of the city, those who were at a distance being alarmed by the sudden tumult, fled hastily from the town, since they thought that the enemy were within the gates. The matrons begin to cast their clothes and silver over the wall, and bending over as far as the lower part of the bosom, with outstretched hands beseech the Romans to spare them, and not to sacrifice to their resentment even women and children, as they had done at Avaricum. Some of them let themselves down from the walls by their hands, and surrendered to our soldiers. Lucius Fabius, a centurion of the eighth legion, who, it was ascertained, had said that day among his fellow soldiers that he was excited by the plunder of Avaricum, and would not allow anyone to mount the wall before him, finding three men of his own company, and being raised up by them, scaled the wall. He himself, in turn, taking hold of them one by one, drew them up to the wall.
In the meantime those who had gone to the other part of the town to defend it, as we have mentioned above, at first, aroused by hearing the shouts, and, afterwards, by frequent accounts that the town was in possession of the Romans, sent forward their cavalry, and hastened in larger numbers to that quarter. As each first came he stood beneath the wall, and increased the number of his countrymen engaged in action. When a great multitude of them had assembled, the matrons, who a little before were stretching their hands from the walls to the Romans, began to beseech their countrymen, and after the Gallic fashion to show their dishevelled hair, and bring their children into public view. Neither in position nor in numbers was the contest an equal one to the Romans; at the same time, being exhausted by running and the long continuation of the fight, they could not easily withstand fresh and vigorous troops.
Caesar, when he perceived that his soldiers were fighting on unfavourable ground, and that the enemy’s forces were increasing, being alarmed for the safety of his troops, sent orders to Titus Sextius, one of his lieutenants, whom he had left to guard the smaller camp, to lead out his cohorts quickly from the camp, and post them at the foot of the hill, on the right wing of the enemy; that if he should see our men driven from the ground, he should deter the enemy from following too closely. He himself, advancing with the legion a little from that place where he had taken his post, awaited the issue of the battle.
While the fight was going on most vigorously, hand to hand, and the enemy depended on their position and numbers, our men on their bravery, the Aedui suddenly appeared on our exposed flank, as Caesar had sent them by another ascent on the right, for the sake of creating a diversion. These, from the similarity of their arms, greatly terrified our men; and although they were discovered to have their right shoulders bare, which was usually the sign of those reduced to peace, yet the soldiers suspected that this very thing was done by the enemy to deceive them. At the same time Lucius Fabius the centurion, and those who had scaled the wall with him, being surrounded and slain, were cast from the wall. Marcus Petreius, a centurion of the same legion, after attempting to hew down the gates, was overpowered by numbers, and, despairing of his safety, having already received many wounds, said to the soldiers of his own company who followed him: “Since I cannot save you as well as myself, I shall at least provide for your safety, since I allured by the love of glory, led you into this danger, do you save yourselves when an opportunity is given.” At the same time he rushed into the midst of the enemy, and slaying two of them, drove back the rest a little from the gate. When his men attempted to aid him, “In vain,” he says, “you endeavour to procure my safety since blood and strength are now failing me, therefore leave this, while you have the opportunity, and retreat to the legion.” Thus he fell fighting a few moments after, and saved his men by his own death.
Our soldiers, being hard pressed on every side, were dislodged from their position, with the loss of forty-six centurions; but the tenth legion, which had been posted in reserve on ground a little more level, checked the Gauls in their eager pursuit. It was supported by the cohorts of the thirteenth legion, which, being led from the smaller camp, had, under the command of Titus Sextius, occupied the higher ground. The legions, as soon as they reached the plain, halted and faced the enemy. Vercingetorix led back his men from the part of the hill within the fortifications. On that day little less than seven hundred of the soldiers were missing.
On the next day, Caesar, having called a meeting, censured the rashness and avarice of his soldiers, “In that they had judged for themselves how far they ought to proceed, or what they ought to do, and could not be kept back by the tribunes of the soldiers and the lieutenants;” and stated, “what the disadvantage of the ground could effect, what opinion he himself had entertained at Avaricum, when having surprised the enemy without either general or cavalry, he had given up a certain victory, lest even a trifling loss should occur in the contest owing to the disadvantage of position. That as much as he admired the greatness of their courage, since neither the fortifications of the camp, nor the height of the mountain, nor the wall of the town could retard them; in the same degree he censured their licentiousness and arrogance, because they thought that they knew more than their general concerning victory, and the issue of actions: and that he required in his soldiers forbearance and self-command, not less than valour and magnanimity.”
Having held this assembly, and having encouraged the soldiers at the conclusion of his speech, “That they should not be dispirited on this account, nor attribute to the valour of the enemy what the disadvantage of position had caused;” entertaining the same views of his departure that he had previously had, he led forth the legions from the camp, and drew up his army in order of battle in a suitable place. When Vercingetorix, nevertheless, would not descend to the level ground, a slight cavalry action, and that a successful one, having taken place, he led back his army into the camp. When he had done this, the next day, thinking that he had done enough to lower the pride of the Gauls, and to encourage the minds of his soldiers, he moved his camp in the direction of the Aedui. The enemy not even then pursuing us, on the third day he repaired the bridge over the river Allier, and led over his whole army.
Having then held an interview with Viridomarus and Eporedorix the Aeduans, he learns that Litavicus had set out with all the cavalry to raise the Aedui; that it was necessary that they too should go before him to confirm the state in their allegiance. Although he now saw distinctly the treachery of the Aedui in many things, and was of opinion that the revolt of the entire state would be hastened by their departure; yet he thought that they should not be detained, lest he should appear either to offer an insult, or betray some suspicion of fear. He briefly states to them when departing his services towards the Aedui: in what a state and how humbled he had found them, driven into their towns, deprived of their lands, stripped of all their forces, a tribute imposed on them, and hostages wrested from them with the utmost insult; and to what condition and to what greatness he had raised them, so much so that they had not only recovered their former position, but seemed to surpass the dignity and influence of all the previous eras of their history. After giving these admonitions he dismissed them.
Noviodunum was a town of the Aedui, advantageously situated on the banks of the Loire. Caesar had conveyed hither all the hostages of Gaul, the corn, public money, a great part of his own baggage and that of his army; he had sent hither a great number of horses, which he had purchased in Italy and Spain on account of this war. When Eporedorix and Viridomarus came to this place, and received information of the disposition of the state, that Litavicus had been admitted by the Aedui into Bibracte, which is a town of the greatest importance among them, that Convictolitanis the chief magistrate and a great part of the senate had gone to meet him, that ambassadors had been publicly sent to Vercingetorix to negotiate a peace and alliance; they thought that so great an opportunity ought not to be neglected. Therefore, having put to the sword the garrison of Noviodunum and those who had assembled there for the purpose of trading or were on their march, they divided the money and horses among themselves; they took care that the hostages of the different states should be brought to Bibracte, to the chief magistrate; they burnt the town to prevent its being of any service to the Romans, as they were of opinion that they could not hold it; they carried away in their vessels whatever corn they could in the hurry; they destroyed the remainder, by throwing it into the river or setting it on fire; they themselves began to collect forces from the neighbouring country, to place guards and garrisons in different positions along the banks of the Loire, and to display the cavalry on all sides to strike terror into the Romans, to try if they could cut them off from a supply of provisions. In which expectation they were much aided, from the circumstance that the Loire had swollen to such a degree from the melting of the snows, that it did not seem capable of being forded at all.
Caesar on being informed of these movements was of opinion that he ought to make haste, even if he should run some risk in completing the bridges, in order that he might engage before greater forces of the enemy should be collected in that place. For no one even then considered it an absolutely necessary act, that changing his design he should direct his march into the Province, both because the infamy and disgrace of the thing, and the intervening mount Cevennes, and the difficulty of the roads prevented him; and especially because he had serious apprehensions for the safety of Labienus whom he had detached, and those legions whom he had sent with him. Therefore, having made very long marches by day and night, he came to the river Loire, contrary to the expectation of all; and having by means of the cavalry found out a ford, suitable enough considering the emergency, of such depth that their arms and shoulders could be above water for supporting their accoutrements, he dispersed his cavalry in such a manner as to break the force of the current, and having confounded the enemy at the first sight, led his army across the river in safety; and finding corn and cattle in the fields, after refreshing his army with them, he determined to march into the country of the Senones.
Whilst these things are being done by Caesar, Labienus, leaving at Agendicum the recruits who had lately arrived from Italy, to guard the baggage, marches with four legions to Lutetia (which is a town of the Parisii, situated on an island of the river Seine), whose arrival being discovered by the enemy, numerous forces arrived from the neighbouring states. The supreme command is entrusted to Camulogenus, one of the Aulerci, who, although almost worn out with age, was called to that honour on account of his extraordinary knowledge of military tactics. He, when he observed that there was a large marsh which communicated with the Seine, and rendered all that country impassable, encamped there, and determined to prevent our troops from passing it.
Labienus at first attempted to raise vineae, fill up the marsh with hurdles and clay, and secure a road. After he perceived that this was too difficult to accomplish, he issued in silence from his camp at the third watch, and reached Melodunum by the same route by which he came. This is a town of the Senones, situated on an island in the Seine, as we have just before observed of Lutetia. Having seized upon about fifty ships and quickly joined them together, and having placed soldiers in them, he intimidated by his unexpected arrival the inhabitants, of whom a great number had been called out to the war, and obtains possession of the town without a contest. Having repaired the bridge, which the enemy had broken down during the preceding days, he led over his army, and began to march along the banks of the river to Lutetia. The enemy, on learning the circumstance from those who had escaped from Melodunum, set fire to Lutetia, and order the bridges of that town to be broken down: they themselves set out from the marsh, and take their position on the banks of the Seine, over against Lutetia and opposite the camp of Labienus.
Caesar was now reported to have departed from Gergovia; intelligence was likewise brought to them concerning the revolt of the Aedui, and a successful rising in Gaul; and that Caesar, having been prevented from prosecuting his journey and crossing the Loire, and having been compelled by the want of corn, had marched hastily to the province. But the Bellovaci, who had been previously disaffected of themselves, on learning the revolt of the Aedui, began to assemble forces and openly to prepare for war. Then Labienus, as the change in affairs was so great, thought that he must adopt a very different system from what he had previously intended, and he did not now think of making any new acquisitions, or of provoking the enemy to an action; but that he might bring back his army safe to Agendicum. For, on one side, the Bellovaci, a state which held the highest reputation for prowess in Gaul, were pressing on him; and Camulogenus, with a disciplined and well-equipped army, held the other side; moreover, a very great river separated and cut off the legions from the garrison and baggage. He saw that, in consequence of such great difficulties being thrown in his way, he must seek aid from his own energy of disposition.
Having, therefore, called a council of war a little before evening, he exhorted his soldiers to execute with diligence and energy such commands as he should give; he assigns the ships which he had brought from Melodunum to Roman knights, one to each, and orders them to fall down the river silently for four miles, at the end of the fourth watch, and there wait for him. He leaves the five cohorts, which he considered to be the most steady in action, to guard the camp; he orders the five remaining cohorts of the same legion to proceed a little after midnight up the river with all their baggage, in a great tumult. He collects also some small boats; and sends them in the same direction, with orders to make a loud noise in rowing. He himself, a little after, marched out in silence, and, at the head of three legions, seeks that place to which he had ordered the ships to be brought.
When he had arrived there, the enemy’s scouts, as they were stationed along every part of the river, not expecting an attack, because a great storm had suddenly arisen, were surprised by our soldiers: the infantry and cavalry are quickly transported, under the superintendence of the Roman knights, whom he had appointed to that office. Almost at the same time, a little before daylight, intelligence was given to the enemy that there was an unusual tumult in the camp of the Romans, and that a strong force was marching up the river, and that the sound of oars was distinctly heard in the same quarter, and that soldiers were being conveyed across in ships a little below. On hearing these things, because they were of opinion that the legions were passing in three different places, and that the entire army, being terrified by the revolt of the Aedui, were preparing for flight, they divided their forces also into three divisions. For leaving a guard opposite to the camp and sending a small body in the direction of Metiosedum, with orders to advance as far as the ships would proceed, they led the rest of their troops against Labienus.
By daybreak all our soldiers were brought across and the army of the enemy was in sight. Labienus, having encouraged his soldiers “to retain the memory of their ancient valour, and so many most successful actions, and imagine Caesar himself, under whose command they had so often routed the enemy, to be present,” gives the signal for action. At the first onset the enemy are beaten and put to flight in the right wing, where the seventh legion stood: on the left wing, which position the twelfth legion held, although the first ranks fell transfixed by the javelins of the Romans, yet the rest resisted most bravely; nor did any one of them show the slightest intention of flying. Camulogenus, the general of the enemy, was present and encouraged his troops. But when the issue of the victory was still uncertain, and the circumstances which were taking place on the left wing were announced to the tribunes of the seventh legion, they faced about their legion to the enemy’s rear and attacked it: not even then did anyone retreat, but all were surrounded and slain. Camulogenus met the same fate. But those who were left as a guard opposite the camp of Labienus, when they heard that the battle was commenced, marched to aid their countrymen and take possession of a hill, but were unable to withstand the attack of the victorious soldiers. In this manner, mixed with their own fugitives, such as the woods and mountains did not shelter were cut to pieces by our cavalry. When this battle was finished, Labienus returns to Agendicum, where the baggage of the whole army had been left: from it he marched with all his forces to Caesar.
The revolt of the Aedui being known, the war grows more dangerous. Embassies are sent by them in all directions: as far as they can prevail by influence, authority, or money, they strive to excite the state to revolt. Having got possession of the hostages whom Caesar had deposited with them, they terrify the hesitating by putting them to death. The Aedui request Vercingetorix to come to them and communicate his plans of conducting the war. On obtaining this request they insist that the chief command should be assigned to them; and when the affair became a disputed question, a council of all Gaul is summoned to Bibracte. They come together in great numbers and from every quarter to the same place. The decision is left to the votes of the mass: all to a man approve of Vercingetorix as their general. The Remi, Lingones, and Treviri were absent from this meeting; the two former because they attached themselves to the alliance of Rome; the Treviri because they were very remote and were hard pressed by the Germans; which was also the reason of their being absent during the whole war, and their sending auxiliaries to neither party. The Aedui are highly indignant at being deprived of the chief command; they lament the change of fortune, and miss Caesar’s indulgence towards them; however, after engaging in the war, they do not dare to pursue their own measures apart from the rest. Eporedorix and Viridomarus, youths of the greatest promise, submit reluctantly to Vercingetorix.
The latter demands hostages from the remaining states: nay, more, appointed a day for this proceeding; he orders all the cavalry, fifteen thousand in number, to quickly assemble here; he says that he will be content with the infantry which he had before, and would not tempt fortune nor come to a regular engagement; but since he had abundance of cavalry, it would be very easy for him to prevent the Romans from obtaining forage or corn, provided that they themselves should resolutely destroy their corn and set fire to their houses, by which sacrifice of private property they would evidently obtain perpetual dominion and freedom. After arranging these matters he levies ten thousand infantry on the Aedui and Segusiani, who border on our province: to these he adds eight hundred horse. He sets over them the brother of Eporedorix, and orders him to wage war against the Allobroges. On the other side he sends the Gabali and the nearest cantons of the Arverni against the Helvii; he likewise sends the Ruteni and Cadurci to lay waste the territories of the Volcae Arecomici. Besides, by secret messages and embassies, he tampers with the Allobroges, whose minds, he hopes, had not yet settled down after the excitement of the late war. To their nobles he promises money, and to their state the dominion of the whole province.
The only guards provided against all these contingencies were twenty-two cohorts, which were collected from the entire province by Lucius Caesar, the lieutenant, and opposed to the enemy in every quarter. The Helvii, voluntarily engaging in battle with their neighbours, are defeated, and Caius Valerius Donotaurus, the son of Caburus, the principal man of the state, and several others, being slain, they are forced to retire within their towns and fortifications. The Allobroges, placing guards along the course of the Rhine, defend their frontiers with great vigilance and energy. Caesar, as he perceived that the enemy were superior in cavalry, and he himself could receive no aid from the province or Italy, while all communication was cut off, sends across the Rhine into Germany to those states which he had subdued in the preceding campaigns, and summons from them cavalry and the light-armed infantry, who were accustomed to engage among them. On their arrival, as they were mounted on unserviceable horses, he takes horses from the military tribunes and the rest, nay, even from the Roman knights and veterans, and distributes them among the Germans.
In the meantime, whilst these things are going on, the forces of the enemy from the Arverni, and the cavalry which had been demanded from all Gaul, meet together. A great number of these having been collected, when Caesar was marching into the country of the Sequani, through the confines of the Lingones, in order that he might the more easily render aid to the province, Vercingetorix encamped in three camps, about ten miles from the Romans: and having summoned the commanders of the cavalry to a council, he shows that the time of victory was come; that the Romans were fleeing into the province and leaving Gaul; that this was sufficient for obtaining immediate freedom; but was of little moment in acquiring peace and tranquillity for the future; for the Romans would return after assembling greater forces, and would not put an end to the war. Therefore they should attack them on their march, when encumbered. If the infantry should be obliged to relieve their cavalry, and be retarded by doing so, the march could not be accomplished: if, abandoning their baggage, they should provide for their safety (a result which, he trusted, was more likely to ensue), they would lose both property and character. For as to the enemy’s horse, they ought not to entertain a doubt that none of them would dare to advance beyond the main body. In order that they [the Gauls] may do so with greater spirit, he would marshal all their forces before the camp, and intimidate the enemy. The cavalry unanimously shout out, “That they ought to bind themselves by a most sacred oath, that he should not be received under a roof, nor have access to his children, parents, or wife, who shall not twice have ridden through the enemy’s army.”
This proposal receiving general approbation, and all being forced to take the oath, on the next day the cavalry were divided into three parts, and two of these divisions made a demonstration on our two flanks; while one in front began to obstruct our march. On this circumstance being announced, Caesar orders his cavalry also to form three divisions and charge the enemy. Then the action commences simultaneously in every part: the main body halts; the baggage is received within the ranks of the legions. If our men seemed to be distressed, or hard pressed in any quarter, Caesar usually ordered the troops to advance, and the army to wheel round in that quarter; which conduct retarded the enemy in the pursuit, and encouraged our men by the hope of support. At length the Germans, on the right wing, having gained the top of the hill, dislodge the enemy from their position and pursue them even as far as the river at which Vercingetorix with the infantry was stationed, and slay several of them. The rest, on observing this action, fearing lest they should be surrounded, betake themselves to flight. A slaughter ensues in every direction, and three of the noblest of the Aedui are taken and brought to Caesar: Cotus, the commander of the cavalry, who had been engaged in the contest with Convictolitanis the last election, Cavarillus, who had held the command of the infantry after the revolt of Litavicus, and Eporedorix, under whose command the Aedui had engaged in war against the Sequani, before the arrival of Caesar.
All his cavalry being routed, Vercingetorix led back his troops in the same order as he had arranged them before the camp, and immediately began to march to Alesia, which is a town of the Mandubii, and ordered the baggage to be speedily brought forth from the camp, and follow him closely. Caesar, having conveyed his baggage to the nearest hill, and having left two legions to guard it, pursued as far as the time of day would permit, and after slaying about three thousand of the rear of the enemy, encamped at Alesia on the next day. On reconnoitring the situation of the city, finding that the enemy were panic-stricken, because the cavalry in which they placed their chief reliance were beaten, he encouraged his men to endure the toil, and began to draw a line of circumvallation round Alesia.
The town itself was situated on the top of a hill, in a very lofty position, so that it did not appear likely to be taken, except by a regular siege. Two rivers, on two different sides, washed the foot of the hill. Before the town lay a plain of about three miles in length; on every other side hills at a moderate distance, and of an equal degree of height, surrounded the town. The army of the Gauls had filled all the space under the wall, comprising the part of the hill which looked to the rising sun, and had drawn in front a trench and a stone wall six feet high. The circuit of that fortification, which was commenced by the Romans, comprised eleven miles. The camp was pitched in a strong position, and twenty-three redoubts were raised in it, in which sentinels were placed by day, lest any sally should be made suddenly; and by night the same were occupied by watches and strong guards.
The work having been begun, a cavalry action ensues in that plain, which we have already described as broken by hills, and extending three miles in length. The contest is maintained on both sides with the utmost vigour; Caesar sends the Germans to aid our troops when distressed, and draws up the legions in front of the camp, lest any sally should be suddenly made by the enemy’s infantry. The courage of our men is increased by the additional support of the legions; the enemy being put to flight, hinder one another by their numbers, and as only the narrower gates were left open, are crowded together in them; then the Germans pursue them with vigour even to the fortifications. A great slaughter ensues; some leave their horses, and endeavour to cross the ditch and climb the wall. Caesar orders the legions which he had drawn up in front of the rampart to advance a little. The Gauls, who were within the fortifications, were no less panic-stricken, thinking that the enemy were coming that moment against them, and unanimously shout “to arms;” some in their alarm rush into the town; Vercingetorix orders the gates to be shut, lest the camp should be left undefended. The Germans retreat, after slaying many and taking several horses.
Vercingetorix adopts the design of sending away all his cavalry by night, before the fortifications should be completed by the Romans. He charges them when departing “that each of them should go to his respective state, and press for the war all who were old enough to bear arms; he states his own merits, and conjures them to consider his safety, and not surrender him, who had deserved so well of the general freedom, to the enemy for torture; he points out to them that, if they should be remiss, eighty thousand chosen men would perish with him; that, upon making a calculation, he had barely corn for thirty days, but could hold out a little longer by economy.” After giving these instructions he silently dismisses the cavalry in the second watch, on that side where our works were not completed; he orders all the corn to be brought to himself; he ordains capital punishment to such as should not obey; he distributes among them, man by man, the cattle, great quantities of which had been driven there by the Mandubii; he began to measure out the corn sparingly, and by little and little; he receives into the town all the forces which he had posted in front of it. In this manner he prepares to await the succours from Gaul, and carry on the war.
Caesar, on learning these proceedings from the deserters and captives, adopted the following system of fortification; he dug a trench twenty feet deep, with perpendicular sides, in such a manner that the base of this trench should extend so far as the edges were apart at the top. He raised all his other works at a distance of four hundred feet from that ditch; he did that with this intention, lest (since he necessarily embraced so extensive an area, and the whole works could not be easily surrounded by a line of soldiers) a large number of the enemy should suddenly, or by night, sally against the fortifications; or lest they should by day cast weapons against our men while occupied with the works. Having left this interval, he drew two trenches fifteen feet broad, and of the same depth; the innermost of them, being in low and level ground, he filled with water conveyed from the river. Behind these he raised a rampart and wall twelve feet high: to this he added a parapet and battlements, with large stakes cut like stags’ horns, projecting from the junction of the parapet and battlements, to prevent the enemy from scaling it, and surrounded the entire work with turrets, which were eighty feet distant from one another.
It was necessary, at one and the same time, to procure timber for the rampart, lay in supplies of corn, and raise also extensive fortifications, and the available troops were in consequence of this reduced in number, since they used to advance to some distance from the camp, and sometimes the Gauls endeavoured to attack our works, and to make a sally from the town by several gates and in great force. On which Caesar thought that further additions should be made to these works, in order that the fortifications might be defensible by a small number of soldiers. Having, therefore, cut down the trunks of trees or very thick branches, and having stripped their tops of the bark, and sharpened them into a point, he drew a continued trench everywhere five feet deep. These stakes being sunk into this trench, and fastened firmly at the bottom, to prevent the possibility of their being torn up, had their branches only projecting from the ground. There were five rows in connection with, and intersecting each other; and whoever entered within them were likely to impale themselves on very sharp stakes. The soldiers called these cippi. Before these, which were arranged in oblique rows in the form of a quincunx, pits three feet deep were dug, which gradually diminished in depth to the bottom. In these pits tapering stakes, of the thickness of a man’s thigh, sharpened at the top and hardened in the fire, were sunk in such a manner as to project from the ground not more than four inches; at the same time for the purpose of giving them strength and stability, they were each filled with trampled clay to the height of one foot from the bottom: the rest of the pit was covered over with osiers and twigs, to conceal the deceit. Eight rows of this kind were dug, and were three feet distant from each other. They called this a lily from its resemblance to that flower. Stakes a foot long, with iron hooks attached to them, were entirely sunk in the ground before these, and were planted in every place at small intervals; these they called spurs.
After completing these works, having selected as level ground as he could, considering the nature of the country, and having enclosed an area of fourteen miles, he constructed, against an external enemy, fortifications of the same kind in every respect, and separate from these, so that the guards of the fortifications could not be surrounded even by immense numbers, if such a circumstance should take place owing to the departure of the enemy’s cavalry; and in order that the Roman soldiers might not be compelled to go out of the camp with great risk, he orders all to provide forage and corn for thirty days.
Whilst those things are carried on at Alesia, the Gauls, having convened a council of their chief nobility, determine that all who could bear arms should not be called out, which was the opinion of Vercingetorix, but that a fixed number should be levied from each state; lest, when so great a multitude assembled together, they could neither govern nor distinguish their men, nor have the means of supplying them with corn. They demand thirty-five thousand men from the Aedui and their dependents, the Segusiani, Ambivareti, and Aulerci Brannovices; an equal number from the Arverni in conjunction with the Eleuteti Cadurci, Gabali, and Velauni, who were accustomed to be under the command of the Arverni; twelve thousand each from the Senones, Sequani, Bituriges, Santones, Ruteni, and Carnutes; ten thousand from the Bellovaci; the same number from the Lemovici; eight thousand each from the Pictones, and Turoni, and Parisii, and Helvii; five thousand each from the Suessiones, Ambiani, Mediomatrici, Petrocorii, Nervii, Morini, and Nitiobriges; the same number from the Aulerci Cenomani; four thousand from the Atrebates; three thousand each from the Bellocassi, Lexovii, and Aulerci Eburovices; thirty thousand from the Rauraci, and Boii; six thousand, from all the states together which border on the Atlantic, and which in their dialect are called Armoricae (in which number are comprehended the Curisolites, Rhedones, Ambibari, Caltes, Osismii, Lemovices, Veneti, and Unelli). Of these the Bellovaci did not contribute their number, as they said that they would wage war against the Romans on their own account, and at their own discretion, and would not obey the order of anyone: however, at the request of Commius, they sent two thousand, in consideration of a tie of hospitality which subsisted between him and them.
Caesar had, as we have previously narrated, availed himself of the faithful and valuable services of this Commius, in Britain, in former years: in consideration of which merits he had exempted from taxes his [Commius’s] state, and had conferred on Commius himself the country of the Morini. Yet such was the unanimity of the Gauls in asserting their freedom, and recovering their ancient renown in war, that they were influenced neither by favours, nor by the recollection of private friendship; and all earnestly directed their energies and resources to that war, and collected eight thousand cavalry, and about two hundred and forty thousand infantry. These were reviewed in the country of the Aedui, and a calculation was made of their numbers: commanders were appointed: the supreme command is entrusted to Commius the Atrebatian, Viridomarus and Eporedorix the Aeduans, and Vergasillaunus the Arvernian, the cousin-german of Vercingetorix. To them are assigned men selected from each state, by whose advice the war should be conducted. All march to Alesia, sanguine and full of confidence: nor was there a single individual who imagined that the Romans could withstand the sight of such an immense host: especially in an action carried on both in front and rear, when on the inside the besieged would sally from the town and attack the enemy, and on the outside so great forces of cavalry and infantry would be seen.
But those who were blockaded at Alesia, the day being past on which they had expected auxiliaries from their countrymen, and all their corn being consumed, ignorant of what was going on among the Aedui, convened an assembly and deliberated on the exigency of their situation. After various opinions had been expressed among them, some of which proposed a surrender, others a sally, whilst their strength would support it, the speech of Critognatus ought not to be omitted for its singular and detestable cruelty. He sprung from the noblest family among the Arverni, and possessing great influence, says, “I shall pay no attention to the opinion of those who call a most disgraceful surrender by the name of a capitulation; nor do I think that they ought to be considered as citizens, or summoned to the council. My business is with those who approve of a sally: in whose advice the memory of our ancient prowess seems to dwell in the opinion of you all. To be unable to bear privation for a short time is disgraceful cowardice, not true valour. Those who voluntarily offer themselves to death are more easily found than those who would calmly endure distress. And I would approve of this opinion (for honour is a powerful motive with me), could I foresee no other loss, save that of life: but let us, in adopting our design, look back on all Gaul, which we have stirred up to our aid. What courage do you think would our relatives and friends have, if eighty thousand men were butchered in one spot, supposing that they should be forced to come to an action almost over our corpses? Do not utterly deprive them of your aid, for they have spurned all thoughts of personal danger on account of your safety; nor by your folly, rashness, and cowardice, crush all Gaul and doom it to an eternal slavery. Do you doubt their fidelity and firmness because they have not come at the appointed day? What then? Do you suppose that the Romans are employed every day in the outer fortifications for mere amusement? If you cannot be assured by their despatches, since every avenue is blocked up, take the Romans as evidence that their approach is drawing near; since they, intimidated by alarm at this, labour night and day at their works. What, therefore, is my design? To do as our ancestors did in the war against the Cimbri and Teutones, which was by no means equally momentous; who, when driven into their towns, and oppressed by similar privations, supported life by the corpses of those who appeared useless for war on account of their age, and did not surrender to the enemy: and even if we had not a precedent for such cruel conduct, still I should consider it most glorious that one should be established, and delivered to posterity. For in what was that war like this? The Cimbri, after laying Gaul waste, and inflicting great calamities, at length departed from our country, and sought other lands; they left us our rights, laws, lands, and liberty. But what other motive or wish have the Romans, than, induced by envy, to settle in the lands and states of those whom they have learned by fame to be noble and powerful in war, and impose on them perpetual slavery? For they never have carried on wars on any other terms. But if you know not these things which are going on in distant countries, look to the neighbouring Gaul, which being reduced to the form of a province, stripped of its rights and laws, and subjected to Roman despotism, is oppressed by perpetual slavery.”
When different opinions were expressed, they determined that those who, owing to age or ill health, were unserviceable for war, should depart from the town, and that themselves should try every expedient before they had recourse to the advice of Critognatus: however, that they would rather adopt that design, if circumstances should compel them and their allies should delay, than accept any terms of a surrender or peace. The Mandubii, who had admitted them into the town, are compelled to go forth with their wives and children. When these came to the Roman fortifications, weeping, they begged of the soldiers by every entreaty to receive them as slaves and relieve them with food. But Caesar, placing guards on the rampart, forbade them to be admitted.
In the meantime, Commius and the rest of the leaders, to whom the supreme command had been entrusted, came with all their forces to Alesia, and having occupied the entire hill, encamp not more than a mile from our fortifications. The following day, having led forth their cavalry from the camp, they fill all that plain, which, we have related, extended three miles in length, and draw out their infantry a little from that place, and post them on the higher ground. The town Alesia commanded a view of the whole plain. The besieged run together when these auxiliaries were seen; mutual congratulations ensue, and the minds of all are elated with joy. Accordingly, drawing out their troops, they encamp before the town, and cover the nearest trench with hurdles and fill it up with earth, and make ready for a sally and every casualty.
Caesar, having stationed his army on both sides of the fortifications, in order that, if occasion should arise, each should hold and know his own post, orders the cavalry to issue forth from the camp and commence action. There was a commanding view from the entire camp, which occupied a ridge of hills; and the minds of all the soldiers anxiously awaited the issue of the battle. The Gauls had scattered archers and light-armed infantry here and there, among their cavalry, to give relief to their retreating troops, and sustain the impetuosity of our cavalry. Several of our soldiers were unexpectedly wounded by these, and left the battle. When the Gauls were confident that their countrymen were the conquerors in the action, and beheld our men hard pressed by numbers, both those who were hemmed in by the line of circumvallation and those who had come to aid them, supported the spirits of their men by shouts and yells from every quarter. As the action was carried on in sight of all, neither a brave nor cowardly act could be concealed; both the desire of praise and the fear of ignominy, urged on each party to valour. After fighting from noon almost to sunset, without victory inclining in favour of either, the Germans, on one side, made a charge against the enemy in a compact body, and drove them back; and, when they were put to flight, the archers were surrounded and cut to pieces. In other parts, likewise, our men pursued to the camp the retreating enemy, and did not give them an opportunity of rallying. But those who had come forth from Alesia returned into the town dejected and almost despairing of success.
The Gauls, after the interval of a day, and after making, during that time, an immense number of hurdles, scaling ladders, and iron hooks, silently went forth from the camp at midnight and approached the fortifications in the plain. Raising a shout suddenly, that by this intimation those who were besieged in the town might learn their arrival, they began to cast down hurdles and dislodge our men from the rampart by slings, arrows, and stones, and executed the other movements which are requisite in storming. At the same time, Vercingetorix having heard the shout, gives the signal to his troops by a trumpet, and leads them forth from the town. Our troops, as each man’s post had been assigned him some days before, man the fortifications; they intimidate the Gauls by slings, large stones, stakes which they had placed along the works, and bullets. All view being prevented by the darkness, many wounds are received on both sides; several missiles are thrown from the engines. But Marcus Antonius, and Caius Trebonius, the lieutenants, to whom the defence of these parts had been allotted, draughted troops from the redoubts which were more remote, and sent them to aid our troops, in whatever direction they understood that they were hard pressed.
Whilst the Gauls were at a distance from the fortification, they did more execution, owing to the immense number of their weapons: after they came nearer, they either unawares impaled themselves on the spurs, or were pierced by the mural darts from the ramparts and towers, and thus perished. After receiving many wounds on all sides, and having forced no part of the works, when day drew nigh, fearing lest they should be surrounded by a sally made from the higher camp on the exposed flank, they retreated to their countrymen. But those within, whilst they bring forward those things which had been prepared by Vercingetorix for a sally, fill up the nearest trenches; having delayed a long time in executing these movements, they learned the retreat of their countrymen before they drew nigh to the fortifications. Thus they returned to the town without accomplishing their object.
The Gauls, having been twice repulsed with great loss, consult what they should do: they avail themselves of the information of those who were well acquainted with the country; from them they ascertain the position and fortification of the upper camp. There was, on the north side, a hill, which our men could not include in their works, on account of the extent of the circuit, and had necessarily made their camp in ground almost disadvantageous, and pretty steep. Caius Antistius Reginus, and Caius Caninius Rebilus, two of the lieutenants, with two legions, were in possession of this camp. The leaders of the enemy, having reconnoitred the country by their scouts, select from the entire army sixty thousand men; belonging to those states which bear the highest character for courage: they privately arrange among themselves what they wished to be done, and in what manner; they decide that the attack should take place when it should seem to be noon. They appoint over their forces Vergasillaunus, the Arvernian, one of the four generals, and a near relative of Vercingetorix. He, having issued from the camp at the first watch, and having almost completed his march a little before the dawn, hid himself behind the mountain, and ordered his soldiers to refresh themselves after their labour during the night. When noon now seemed to draw nigh, he marched hastily against that camp which we have mentioned before; and, at the same time, the cavalry began to approach the fortifications in the plain, and the rest of the forces to make a demonstration in front of the camp.
Vercingetorix, having beheld his countrymen from the citadel of Alesia, issues forth from the town; he brings forth from the camp long hooks, movable penthouses, mural hooks, and other things, which he had prepared for the purpose of making a sally. They engage on all sides at once, and every expedient is adopted. They flocked to whatever part of the works seemed weakest. The army of the Romans is distributed along their extensive lines, and with difficulty meets the enemy in every quarter. The shouts which were raised by the combatants in their rear, had a great tendency to intimidate our men, because they perceived that their danger rested on the valour of others: for generally all evils which are distant most powerfully alarm men’s minds.
Caesar, having selected a commanding situation, sees distinctly whatever is going on in every quarter, and sends assistance to his troops when hard pressed. The idea uppermost in the minds of both parties is, that the present is the time in which they would have the fairest opportunity of making a struggle; the Gauls despairing of all safety, unless they should succeed in forcing the lines: the Romans expecting an end to all their labours if they should gain the day. The principal struggle is at the upper lines, to which, we have said, Vergasillaunus was sent. The least elevation of ground, added to a declivity, exercises a momentous influence. Some are casting missiles, others, forming a testudo, advance to the attack; fresh men by turns relieve the wearied. The earth, heaped up by all against the fortifications, gives the means of ascent to the Gauls, and covers those works which the Romans had concealed in the ground. Our men have no longer arms or strength.
Caesar, on observing these movements, sends Labienus with six cohorts to relieve his distressed soldiers: he orders him, if he should be unable to withstand them, to draw off the cohorts and make a sally; but not to do this except through necessity. He himself goes to the rest, and exhorts them not to succumb to the toil; he shows them that the fruits of all former engagements depend on that day and hour. The Gauls within, despairing of forcing the fortifications in the plains on account of the greatness of the works, attempt the places precipitous in ascent: hither they bring the engines which they had prepared; by the immense number of their missiles they dislodge the defenders from the turrets: they fill the ditches with clay and hurdles, then clear the way; they tear down the rampart and breastwork with hooks.
Caesar sends at first young Brutus, with six cohorts, and afterwards Caius Fabius, his lieutenant, with seven others: finally, as they fought more obstinately, he leads up fresh men to the assistance of his soldiers. After renewing the action, and repulsing the enemy, he marches in the direction in which he had sent Labienus, drafts four cohorts from the nearest redoubt, and orders part of the cavalry to follow him, and part to make the circuit of the external fortifications and attack the enemy in the rear. Labienus, when neither the ramparts or ditches could check the onset of the enemy, informs Caesar by messengers of what he intended to do. Caesar hastens to share in the action.
His arrival being known from the colour of his robe, and the troops of cavalry, and the cohorts which he had ordered to follow him being seen, as these low and sloping grounds were plainly visible from the eminences, the enemy join battle. A shout being raised by both sides, it was succeeded by a general shout along the ramparts and whole line of fortifications. Our troops, laying aside their javelins, carry on the engagement with their swords. The cavalry is suddenly seen in the rear of the Gauls: the other cohorts advance rapidly; the enemy turn their backs; the cavalry intercept them in their flight, and a great slaughter ensues. Sedulius the general and chief of the Lemovices is slain; Vergasillaunus, the Arvernian, is taken alive in the flight, seventy-four military standards are brought to Caesar, and few out of so great a number return safe to their camp. The besieged, beholding from the town the slaughter and flight of their countrymen, despairing of safety, lead back their troops from the fortifications. A flight of the Gauls from their camp immediately ensues on hearing of this disaster, and had not the soldiers been wearied by sending frequent reinforcements, and the labour of the entire day, all the enemy’s forces could have been destroyed. Immediately after midnight, the cavalry are sent out and overtake the rear, a great number are taken or cut to pieces, the rest by flight escape in different directions to their respective states. Vercingetorix, having convened a council the following day, declares, “That he had undertaken that war, not on account of his own exigencies, but on account of the general freedom; and since he must yield to fortune, he offered himself to them for either purpose, whether they should wish to atone to the Romans by his death, or surrender him alive.” Ambassadors are sent to Caesar on this subject. He orders their arms to be surrendered, and their chieftains delivered up. He seated himself at the head of the lines in front of the camp, the Gallic chieftains are brought before him. They surrender Vercingetorix, and lay down their arms. Reserving the Aedui and Arverni, to try if he could gain over, through their influence, their respective states, he distributes one of the remaining captives to each soldier, throughout the entire army, as plunder.
After making these arrangements, he marches into the country of the Aedui, and recovers that state. To this place ambassadors are sent by the Arverni, who promise that they will execute his commands. He demands a great number of hostages. He sends the legions to winter quarters; he restores about twenty thousand captives to the Aedui and Arverni; he orders Titus Labienus to march into the country of the Sequani with two legions and the cavalry, and to him he attaches Marcus Sempronius Rutilus; he places Caius Fabius, and Lucius Minucius Basilus, with two legions in the country of the Remi, lest they should sustain any loss from the Bellovaci in their neighbourhood. He sends Caius Antistius Reginus into the country of the Ambivareti, Titus Sextius into the territories of the Bituriges, and Caius Caninius Rebilus into those of the Ruteni, with one legion each. He stations Quintus Tullius Cicero, and Publius Sulpicius among the Aedui at Cabillo and Matisco on the Saône, to procure supplies of corn. He himself determines to winter at Bibracte. A supplication of twenty days is decreed by the senate at Rome, on learning these successes from Caesar’s despatches.
Roman miles. ↩
i.e. the 28th of March. ↩
BC 58. ↩
According to their own representations. The Latin oratio obliqua, indirect citation, is meant to declare not the fact but the assertion of it by somebody. ↩
On April 12th. ↩
Roman, not quite eighteen english. ↩
viz. Tolosa, Toulouse. ↩
BC 107. ↩
I.e. 12 (noon)–1 p.m. ↩
Lit. “of the heads of the Helvetii.” ↩
BC 59. ↩
BC 61. ↩
The decurions. ↩
I.e. for cowardice arising thence. ↩
Commentaries on the Gallic War
was published in 58–49 BC by
It was translated from Latin in 1859 by
W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn.