The Conquest of Gaul

[Part of the reason for Caesar's writing of the Conquest of Gaul to act as a defense of his actions and as propaganda.]

If people so hostile to Rome were permitted to go through the Province, he did not think they were likely to refrain from damage to persons and property. However, to gain time for the assembly of the troops he had ordered to be levied, he told the envoys that he would consider the matter at leisure. I – 7

His ambition for kingly power made him favor political change, and he wanted to lay as many tribes as possible under obligations to himself. I – 9

A man of boundless daring, extremely popular with the masses on account of his liberality. I – 18

Pg. 48 It began with…to obey.

This shows what a great advantage resolute courage is: for a long time the Romans had an unreasoning fear of the slaves while they were still unarmed, yet afterwards defeated them when they were not only armed but flushed with victory. I – 40

If anyone is alarmed by the fact that the Germans have defeated the Gauls and put them to flight, he should enquire into the circumstances of that defeat. I – 40

The suggestion that the men would not obey orders to advance did not trouble him at all; for he knew that in all cases in which an army had refused obedience, it was either because their generals had been unsuccessful and were regarded as unlucky, or because they were proved dishonest by the discovery of some misconduct. I – 40

[As a test, and success through shame] He would move camp in the early hours of the morning, so as to find out with the least possible delay whether their sense of honor and duty or their fear was the stronger. If no one else would follow him, he would go all the same, accompanied only by the 10th legion; of its loyalty he had no doubt, and it should serve as his bodyguard. This address had a dramatic effect on all ranks, and inspired them with the utmost enthusiasm an eagerness for action. I – 41

[Caesar’s hopes in last paragraph] pg. 50

When the news spread through the ranks of the army that Ariovistus had arrogantly warned the Romans off the whole of Gaul, and that his cavalry had interrupted the conference by attacking our troops, the men’s enthusiasm and eagerness for battle knew no bounds. I – 46

Caesar placed each of his five generals ahead of a legion and detailed his quaestor to command the remaining legion, so that every soldier might know that there was a high officer in a position to observe the courage with which he conducted himself. I – 52

Pg. 58 A third of Gaul… mercenaries.

The Belgae, they said, were the only people who, half a century earlier, when all the rest of Gaul was overrun by the Teutoni and the Cimbri, prevented the invaders from entering their territory – the recollection of which made them assume an air of much importance and pride themselves on their military power. II – 4

For while the rearguard, with which our men were actually in contact, halted and put up a gallant resistance, all those in front, imagining that they were far enough off to be safe, and not being under the immediate necessity of defending themselves or under the control of anyone in authority, broke their ranks directly they heard the shouting of the combatants, and tried to escape. II – 11

He learned that they did not admit traders into their country and would not allow the importation of wine or other luxuries, because they thought that such things made men soft and took the edge off their courage. II – 15

But the situation was saved by two things – first, the knowledge and experience of the soldiers, whose training in earlier battles enabled them to decide for themselves what needed doing, without waiting to be told; secondly, the order which Caesar had issued to all his generals, not to leave the work, but to stay each with his own legion until the camp fortifications were complete. As the enemy was so close and advancing so swiftly, the generals did not wait for further orders but on their own responsibility took the measures they thought proper. II – 20

[The ruse of the Atuatuci] pg. 72; II – 33

And there had also assembled from all over Gaul a host of desperados and bandits, to whom the prospect of fighting and plunder was more attractive than farming and regular work. III – 17

And the general tendency of mankind to wishful thinking. III – 18

On hearing the shout at the back of the camp our soldiers felt their strength renewed, as generally happens when men have hopes of winning, and redoubled their efforts. III – 26


Most of their informants will invent such answers that they think will please them. IV – 5

[The German attack under truce] pg. 92

The Gauls were so scatter-brained that even this single German success had no doubt made an impression upon them, and they must not be given time to concert plans. IV – 13

On the conclusion of the German war Caesar thought it advisable for several reasons to cross the Rhine. His strongest motive was to make the Germans less inclined to come over into Gaul by giving them reason to be alarmed on their own account, and showing them that Roman armies could and would advance across the river. IV – 16

He warned them that the exigencies of warfare, and particularly of naval operations, in which things move rapidly and the situation is constantly changing, required the instant execution of every order. IV – 23

At this the soldiers, exhorting each other not to submit to such a disgrace, jumped with one accord from the ship, and the men from the next ships, when they saw them, followed them and advanced against the enemy. IV – 25

Although Caesar had not yet heard of their intention, the disaster which had overtaken his fleet and the fact that they were no longer sending hostages led him to anticipate what was coming. He therefore prepared for anything that might happen. IV – 31

The reason why he had not wanted to leave his followers and wait upon him was that by remaining he had a better chance of keeping the tribe loyal. If all the men of rank left the country, the common people in their ignorance might fall into error. V – 3

This abatement of his influence provoked Indutiomarus to bitter resentment, which greatly inflamed the hostility that he already felt towards the Romans. V – 4

Dumnorix had said in the Aeduan council that Caesar had offered to make him king of the tribe – a statement that was much resented by the Aedui, although they dared not protest to Caesar or ask him to give up the idea. V – 6

Since Caesar thought that a man who flouted his authority under his very eyes could not be expected to behave rationally behind his back. V – 7

Previously he had been continually at war with the other tribes, but the arrival of our army frightened them into appointing him their supreme commander. V – 11

Pg. 119 – 121 [Ambiorix’s trick]

It had unfortunate results: it discouraged the soldiers and increased the enemy’s ardor for the fight, because it clearly indicated an extremity of fear and desperation. It inevitably meant too, that men were everywhere leaving their units and running to the baggage to look for their most cherished possessions and pull them out, amid a hubbub of shouting and cries. V – 33

Pg. 125 [story of Vorenus and Pullo]

Caesar hoped, by feigning fear, to entice them on to his own ground, and so to be able to fight in front of his camp on his own side of the valley. V – 50

Caesar summoned the leading men of each tribe and partly by intimidation, letting them know that he was aware of what was going on, partly by persuasion, succeeded in keeping a large part of the country obedient. V – 54

The fact that someone had been bold enough to take the initiative in hostile action made a deep impression on the ignorant natives, and proceeded such a profound change in their attitude that nearly every tribe was suspected by Caesar of disloyalty. V – 54

Perhaps there is nothing very surprising in their readiness to revolt; among many other reasons, tribes which were considered the bravest and most warlike in the world naturally felt bitter resentment at the complete loss of this reputation which the submission to Rome rule entailed. V – 54

Pg. 132 [plan]

Caesar considered it very important, with a view to making a permanent impression upon the tribesmen, to let it be seen that the manpower of Italy was sufficient not only to repair speedily any loss sustained in the field, but actually to increase the size of the expeditionary force. VI – 1

He thought it advisable to deprive Ambiorix of these allies before attacking him directly, for fear desperation should make him hide upon the Menapii or join the tribes beyond the Rhine. VI – 5

Apprised of their intention, Labienus hoped that their imprudence would give him some opportunity of bringing them to action. VI – 7

Pg. 136 [Labienus’s tricks]

Pg. 138 – 146 [interesting stuff about the Gauls and Germans; some stuff in here, pg. 141 But I imagine…rust; pg 143 The tribes…assembly; and more] Much depends on fortune, in war, as in all other things. VI – 30

At this moment an instance occurred of the important part played in war by accident, which can have far-reaching consequences. VI – 35

VI – 42

VII – 10 pg. 159

VII – 14 [strategy]

To these charges Vercingetorix replied that he moved camp because he was short of forage, and they themselves had pressed him to do so [as the Gauls were upset with him for this]. VII – 20

When they saw that their minds were made up – for men who stand in extreme peril are generally to scared to feel pity – they started shrieking and gesticulating to the Romans to warn them of the men’s intention. This frightened the Gauls into giving up the idea; for they were afraid that the Roman cavalry would have seized the roads before they could get away. VII – 26

They were exasperated by the massacre of Romans at Cenabum and the labor of the siege and spared neither old men nor women nor children. VII – 28

It is idle to expect invariable success in war. VII – 29

He tried to entice their chiefs by presents and offers of reward, employing the agents whom he thought best qualified for the purpose; some were personal friends of the chiefs, others were chosen for their powers of subtle speech. VII – 31

Pg 173 [ Convictolitavis’s ingratitude]

Without waiting for confirmation they accepted an idle rumor as an established fact, some excited by greed, others carried away by anger and impetuosity. VII – 42

Convictolitavis added fuel to the fire and goaded the people to frenzy, in the hope that if once they committed a serious crime they would be ashamed to return to reason. VII - 42

Pg. 177 Fascinated…fear of revolt. VII - 43

However, he thought it unwise to detain them, lest he should be accused of high-handed action or give an impression of being afraid. VII – 54

But the whole Gallic people were so united in their determination to liberate themselves and recover their former prestige that they allowed no favors or recollection of friendship to influence them, and all devoted their energies and resources to the prosecution of the war. VII – 76

It is nearly always invisible dangers that are most terrifying. VII – 84

After doing this duty for some days they grew careless, as generally happens when a routine is continued for any length of time. VIII – 12

Eventually it took the usual course of such engagements; the very fact that our troops had survived the initial shock without disaster, though ambushed and taken by surprise, gave them an advantage. VIII – 19

Caesar thought that the next best way of obtaining the satisfaction that his honor demanded was to strip the country of inhabitants, cattle, and buildings so thoroughly that any of the Eburones who had the good fortune to escape would loathe Ambiorix for bringing such calamities upon them and never allow him to return. VIII – 24

[The continual rebellion of the Gauls in the face of the disastrous defeats of the other rebellions, indicates one's superiority to others' failures]

And all the tribes would be only too willing to take up arms when they could do so without immediate risk. So he made their condition of subjection more tolerable by addressing the tribal governments in complimentary terms, refraining from the imposition of any fresh burdens, and bestowing rich presents upon the principal citizens. By these means it was easy to induce a people exhausted by so many defeats to live at peace. VIII – 49

The Civil War

Pg. 35

Pg. 36 [The reasons why individual’s were going against Caesar]

Their numbers and the uproar they made intimidated the timorous, made up the minds of the waverers and robbed the majority of the power to decide freely. I – 3

Pg. 41 [Caesar’s analysis of Pompey’s message]

He himself then held a secret conclave with a few friends and decided to attempt an escape. Domitius’s looks, however, belied his words; indeed, his whole demeanor was much more anxious and fearful than usual. When to this was added the fact that, contrary to his usual custom, he spent a lot of time talking to his friends in private, making plans, while avoiding a meeting of the officers or an assembly of the troops, then the truth could not be concealed or misrepresented for long. I – 20

Caesar was fully aware of the importance of taking possession of the town and bringing the cohorts into his own camp as soon as possible, before bribes, or a renewal of courage, or some false rumors, should make the men change their minds; for he knew that in warfare slight events can often turn the scales and produce serious reversals. I – 21

Pg 48 [Caesar’s preparations for contingencies]

At once, he borrowed money from the tribunes and centurions and distributed it among his troops, thus killing two birds with one stone – he took a security for the loyalty of the centurions, and won the good will of the troops by his bounty. I – 39

They had grown accustomed to this sort of fighting with the Lusitanians and other barbarian tribes – naturally, since it usually happens that troops are influenced by the habits of the natives in any region in which they have spent a long period of service. I – 44

However, each side was of the general opinion that it had come off better in that day’s fighting. I – 47

Pg 60 [The storm that unexpectedly set back Caesar]

All these circumstances, however, had sent up the price of corn, as tends to happen not merely because of present shortages but also because of fears for the future. I – 52

Afranius and Petreius and their friends wrote to their adherents in Rome about this, with plenty of exaggerations and applified detail. Rumors added further embroideries and it was thought that the war was almost over. When the messengers with the dispatches reached Rome, great crowds gathered at Afranius’s house and congratulations were lavished on him; many people left Italy to join Pompey, some in order to have the credit of being the first to bring such news, others to avoid turning up last of all and appearing to have waited for the outcome of the wars. I – 53

A night battle was to be avoided, since the soldiers in the panicky atmosphere of a civil war were more likely to be swayed by their fears than by their sense of duty; daylight, on the other hand, was apt of itself to impose a sense of shame, under the gaze of everyone, while the presence of the military tribunes and centurions was also a restraining influence. It was by such circumstances that soldiers were usually kept in hand and maintained in their loyalty. I – 67

Especially as I know that a good commander should be able to gain as much by policy as by the sword. I – 72

For his reputation would suffer a severe setback if he gave the appearance of shunning a battle, contrary to the general feeling among his troops and to his reputation in the world at large. I – 82

Their courage and confidence were as great as when they had fought before; for it is a common fault in human nature that the unseen and unknown provoke excessive confidence or excessive fear, and so it happened on this occasion. II – 4

Nasidius’s ships on the other hand, were of no help and quickly withdrew from the battle; for their crews had not the sight of their homeland nor the injunctions of their kinsfolk to urge them on into mortal danger. II – 7

Later, however, their natural intelligence told them (experience, as usual, being instructive). II – 8

These and other pleas of the same sort, as one might expect from skilled orators, were delivered with much weeping and so as to excite much compassion. II – 12

Pg. 86 entirety of II – 13

Pg 86 [The trickery of the Massiliotes]

Whether they were expressing their real opinion to Varus, or whether they were saying what he would like to hear (for we readily believe what we wish were so, and we hope that others feel as we do). II - 27

Pg. 95 However, in Cario’s...better informed.

Some were of the opinion that they should at all costs make an effort and attack Varus’s camp, because they believed that when the troops were in this sort of mood idleness was most dangerous. II – 30

Pg. 96 You should know that while success wins for commanders the good-will of their men, failure earns their hatred…in the dark.

Pg. 100 [Fabius’s sacrifice]

He accepted this story without question, changed his plans, and decided to offer battle. His decision was strongly influenced by his youthful audacity, his earlier progress and his confidence in success. II – 38

However, they themselves gave an embroidered account of the incident, with the usual readiness of men to sound their own praises. II – 39

They abandoned hope of survival, and, as men are wont to do in their last hours, either lapsed into self-pity or asked for their relatives to be looked after, if fortune could rescue anyone from this peril. Fear and grief filled the whole army. II – 41

Pg. 104 Nevertheless, there…to them.

Credit was rather tight throughout Italy and debts were not being paid. Caesar therefore decided to appoint arbitrators to evaluate property, movable and otherwise, at prewar values, to be handed over to the creditors. He took this step because he thought it the most effective way to remove or lessen the fear of a total abolition of debts which usually accompanies wars or civil wars, and to preserve the credit of debtors. III – 1

He had decided that the credit for their restoration ought to appear to rest with the people, rather than with his good nature; while he did not wish to appear ungrateful in rendering due thanks, he did not want to be accused of arrogance in forestalling the generosity of the people. III – 1

We have both suffered enough damage to serve as a lesson and a warning, and make us fear the ills that still remain. III – 9

Our own loses have given us enough proof of the power of fortune in war. This is the best time of all to discuss peace, while we are both confident and appear equally matched; but if fortune should favor one, only a little, the one who seems the better off will have nothing to do with terms of peace, nor will he be satisfied with an equal share, when he believes he can have everything. III – 10

In this way the safety of the whole army turned on a brief space of time and a sheer coincidence. III – 14

Caesar realized that Libo had entered on the entire discussion simply to escape from his immediate danger and privation, and that he had no real hope of a settlement to offer. III – 17

Pg. 120 This incident showed…safely.

To secure their good will, turned the towns over to them for plunder. III – 31

Any extremes of cruelty or atrocity on their part earned them the name of being good men and good citizens. The province was full of official attendants and official commands, it was packed with officers and collectors, who filled their own pockets as well as exacted the money that was demanded. They would allege that they had been driven from home and country and lacked all the necessities of life, so as to cover their dishonorable exactions with a fair-seeming excuse. A further source of distress was that interest rates had risen very high, as generally happens in wartime, when all the available money is in demand. III – 32

This gave rise to universal speculation and rumor; for in general when something unexpected happens rumor goes beyond the facts. III – 36

The corn crops were now beginning to ripen and the mere hope helped them to bear their want, since they trusted that they would soon have plenty. III – 49

However, relying on Caesar’s friendship and carried away by stupid, barbarian vanity they began to look down on their own people, to cheat the cavalry of their pay, and to appropriate all the plunder for themselves. III – 59

Pg 136 Impelled, therefore…Pompey.

But fortune, whose power is very great in all spheres, but particularly in warfare, often brings about great reversals by a slight tilt of the balance. III – 68

In this way trivial circumstances had important effects for both sides. III – 70

Pg 141 These events…could occur.

He urged them not to be disheartened or afraid at what had happened, but to balance against this one setback, and not a serious one at that, all the many successful engagements they had had. III – 73

If everything does not turn out favorably, we must help fortune by some efforts of our own. III - 73

At the same time Pompey had sent dispatches round all the provinces and states describing the encounter at Dyrrachium in far more inflated and exaggerated terms than the events justified, and the word had spread about that Caesar had been routed, had lost almost all his forces, and was fleeing. This had endangered Caesar's march and had caused several communities to defect from their friendly relations with him. III - 79

The Allobroges, friends of Roucillus and Egus, who as related above had deserted to Pompey, saw some of Domitius's scouts on the road and told them everything that had happened, either because of their old acquaintance, as they had campaigned together in Gaul or because they were puffed up with vainglory. III - 79

and at the same time how they might strike terror into the other communities by making an example of this one. III - 80

When they learned of the fate of Gomphi from some prisoners whom Caesar had had led up to the wall, they opened the gate. Caesar was very careful to preserve them from harm; and so, when the other states in Thessaly compared the fortune of the people of Metropolis with the fate of the people of Gomphi, there was none except Larissa, which was in the hands of large forces of Scipio's, which did not obey Caesar and carry out his orders. III - 81

everyone's original opinion was reinforced and hopes of victory grew, so much so that any further lapse of time seemed merely to delay their return to Italy. If at any time Pompey acted with particular slowness or deliberation, they would say that the business need keep them only a single day, and that Pompey took pleasure from being in command and was treating ex-consuls and ex-praetors as if they were his slaves. There were already starting to squabble openly among themselves about rewards and priesthoods and were assigning the consulships for years to come, while some were claiming the houses and property of people in Caesar's camp. III - 82

The rest, however, were insisting that where all underwent the same toils and dangers one man should not be allowed to take precendence of the rest. III - 82

In short, everyone was busily securing office for himself, or financial reward, or pursuing private grudges, and they were thinking not of how to win but of how to exploit the victory. III - 83

The news came of the battle of Thessaly, so that even the Pompeians were convinced; for up till that time they thought it was a story invented by Caesar's officers and friends. III - 101

Caesar judged that he must drop everything else and pursue Pompey where he had betaken himself after his flight, so that he should not be able to gather more forces and renew the war. III - 102

pg 159 III - 104 (Either (as they alleged...and Septimius)

These included Gabinius's men, who by now had grown accustomed to the lax way of life at Alexandria. They had ceased to think of themselves as Roman, forgotten the standards of disciplie of the Roman people, and had married and mostly had children by the marriages. III - 110

Meanwhile, the younger daughter of Ptolemy, hoping to take possession of the thrown while it was untenanted, left the palace, joined Achillas, and began to wage war jointly with him. However, a quarrel soon arose between them about the leadership; this increased the bounties to the troops, for each tried separately to win their support by lavish largesse. III - 112

The Alexandrian War

[This was not written by Caesar]

When the Alexandrians saw themselves now worsted not by the courage of combat troops but by the skill of naval crews, they were so demoralized at this reverse that they began to lose confidence in their ability to defend themselves from the buildings. 12

However, after Ganymede declared in the council that he would replace the lost ships and increase the size of the fleet as well, they were filled with renewed optimism and confidence and began to repair the old ships, applying themselves to the work with energy and enthusiasm. 12

pg. 175 Chpt 16 if any one of them...go out to battle.

Terror robs men of their powers of reason and judgement and impairs their physical capacity. 18

Pg. 179 Chpt 24 But the king...tears of joy.

After this success he pressed on towards Caesar in Alexandria, perfectly subduing and bringing over to Caesar's side all the regions which lay on his line of march, thanks to the prestige which normally attends a victor. 26

Pg. 184 Chpt. 33 The younger, Arsinoe...contstrain them.

Pg. 187 Chpt. 36 he also gave...dispersed.

the conscientiousness of Cornificius and the courage of Vatinius, as well as the influence of fortune, which is a very powerful factor in war, put a stop to his success. 43

Displaying remarkable courage, they did not hesitate to jump across from their own vessels into those of the enemy, and, the terms of the fighting being thus equalized, they began to carry the day by their marked superiority in valour. 46

Pg. 194 Chpt. 48 Quintus Cassius Longinus...military discipline.

besides, as is the usual consequence of habitual largesse, greater benefactions were expected of the giver, to maintain the reputation of open-handedness.

People of slender means were lumped in with the rich because of personal quarrels, and no source of gain, whether large and manifest or small and mean, was overlooked by the governor, both in his official capacity and in private. Everyone who had anything to lose was made to give bail or put on the list of accused. As a result, men had the fear of prosecution to worry them, as well as the losses and damage to their personal estates. 49

Pg. 195 Chpt 50 Their respite.

Even if their fines were justified by extreme guilt, nevertheless, the fact that the danger to his life and the pain of his wounds were compounded for cash shows that in Cassius there was a struggle between cruelty and avarice. 55

The news of victory compelled him to feel happy, but the end of the war would put an end to his present licence; and so he could not decide whether he preferred to be free from all fears or free from all restraint. 56

He discovered that they were loyal to him, not for his own sake but for that of the absent Caesar, and would flinch from no danger, so long as the province was rescued for Caesar through their efforts. 57

Cassius, on the other hand, stayed within his defenses, either because he thought he had a better legal claim to power than Marcellus or because he was afraid that Lepidus's mind might already have been influenced by the advances of his opponent. 63

Pg. 202 Chpt. 64 On learning of his arrival...into the hands of anyone else.

and the corruption and indulgence of military tribunes and legionary commanders were allowing a great many breaches of military practice, which were bound to undermine strict discipline. 65

he thought priority ... enemies. pg. 203

he did not think it... self confidence. pg. 203

pg. 206 [Pharnaces tricks from ealier as well as here] Pharnaces... expected it.

Caesar presumed... fortifications. pg. 207

He may have... Domitius's command. pg. 207

Caesar was startled... unprepared. pg. 208

At such a victory... difficult circumstances. pg. 209

the latter inquired...Scipio pg. 214

He gave orders...cause delay. pg. 216

The entire army...unhappiness. pg. 217

their one comfort... for them. pg. 217

Saliensus feared... later. pg. 226

pg. 228

pg. 230 section 35

[The loyal centurion] pg. 235

[Fortune strikes again in the dust storm] pg. 239

I should have ... behavior. pg. 239

In the meanwhile ... lax. pg. 246

for our veterans ... agitators. pg. 255

Several Roman ... them. pg. 255

[The cruelty of Scipio's men] pg. 257

First, he tried ... entreaties. pg. 260

On the way ... could. pg. 260

When he seized ... larger. pg. 265

and then proceeded ... history. pg. 272

[The man from Urso] pg. 276

though some also ... on them. pg. 280

Observing this ... battle. pg. 281

I have found ... people. pg. 287

Back To Top

Back to Collected Wisdom

Home Page

© 2009