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Julius Caesar's self-justifying description of his conquest of Europe from the Alps clear to the coast of the North Sea and on to Britain is one of the most remarkable accounts of warfare from any time or any society.
Caesar himself was a wealthy, superbly educated, political and military genius, trusted by his soldiers, feared by his enemies, loved by the Roman rabble, and constantly suspected by his competitors of wanting to undercut the dysfunctional Roman Republic and make himself emperor. Almost certainly all of them were right in their views of him. (Woe be to him whose enemy is a genius.)
If his foundational role in European history is remarkable, it is no less remarkable that we should have a full account and thoughtful justification of it from his own hand. Indeed, it is even elegantly written.
The only copyright-free English translation to emerge on the Web is available in several locations and with slightly different attribution:
None of these presentations strike me as well formatted for comfortable on-screen reading, although the first offers a choice of downloadable formats. (Amazon has a Kindle edition, and there is a version for Microsoft readers.) The text remains the same, apparently originally crafted by MacDevitt (or McDevitte) sometime in the middle 1800s. For this page, I have introduced fixed margins, changed Roman numeral chapter numbers to Arabic, modernized some punctuation, and Americanized the spelling.
Somewhat to the amusement of modern readers, Caesar consistently refers to himself in the third person, aware that he is writing an official account, or anyway that he would like his text to stand as an official account. He also shifts from a past-tense narrative to a present tense doing service for the past. (For example, "Caesar came and gives them grain.") This was allowable in Classical Latin and was considered to make the narrative more vivid. But English translators are ill-advised to follow him in this, for the effect in English is to imply illiteracy, and Caesar was by no means illiterate! Unfortunately, MacDevitt does follow Caesar in this.
American readers should be cautioned that the word "corn" in British usage can refer to any cereal grain, especially whatever is the principal grain of a region. Caesar therefore speaks of "corn" (frumentum), although he of course knew nothing of the New World cultigen that the British call "maize."
Two rather better translations, still under copyright, are more readable:
- HANDFORD, S.A. (tr.)
- 1951, 1982 Caesar: The Conquest of Gaul. London: Penguin Books.
- EDWARDS, H.J. (tr.)
- 1917 Caesar: The Gallic War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Bilingual edition continuously reprinted in the Loeb Classical Library.)
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 civilization 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 valor, 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 valor, 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 neighbors; 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 [Roman] miles.
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 neighboring 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 endeavoring 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.
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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 neighbors, 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 kalends of April [i.e., the 28th of March], in the consulship of Lucius Piso and Aulus Gabinius [B.C. 58].
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" [according to their own representations] "no other route, 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 [on April 12th].
Meanwhile, with the legion which he had with him and the soldiers who had assembled from the Province, he carries along for nineteen [Roman, not quite eighteen English] miles 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 any one 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.
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It is again told to 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 [viz. Tolosa, Toulouse] is a state in the Province. 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 Saone, 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 Saone, 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 [B.C. 107]. 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 Saone, 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 valor 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 valor, or despise them; that they had so learned from their sires and ancestors, as to rely more on valor 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.
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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 Saone, because the Helvetii, from whom he was unwilling to retire, had diverted their march from the Saone. 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 favor 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 neighboring 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 favors 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.
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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] 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 day-break, 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 and 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.
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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 neighborhood 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 the seventh hour [i.e., 12 (noon)-1 P.M.] 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 night-fall 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 valor 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 Helvetii||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.
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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 [i.e., of the Germans] 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 valor 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, [viz.] 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.
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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 consulship [B.C. 59] been styled 'king and friend' by the senate), he makes this recompense to [Caesar] himself and the Roman people, [viz.] 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 favor 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 Piso [B.C. 61] 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 he would not overlook the wrongs of the Aedui, [he said] that no one had ever entered into a contest with him [Ariovistus] 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 valor."
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 thus 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 valor 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 city [Rome] 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 [the decurions] who were in command of the cavalry, 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.
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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 favor. 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 valor 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 valor. 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 honor 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 favored, and in it, on account of its valor, placed the greatest confidence.
Upon the delivery of this speech, the minds of all were changed in a surprising, manner, and the highest ardor 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 favorable opinion of them; and assured him that they were quite ready to prosecute the war. Then, the other legions endeavored, 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 reconnoitered 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 favors 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 body-guard 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 humor, "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 cavalry knights."
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 favors 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 honors 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 favor, and how frequent and how honorable; 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 honor: 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 good-will; 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? 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 favor 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."
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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 practiced 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 any one, 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.
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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 disheveled 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 every one might have them as witnesses of his valor. 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, endeavored 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 favor 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 neighbors 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.
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