Caesar Conquers Gaul
Gary Edward Forsythe: Assistant Professor of Classical Languages and Literatures, University of Chicago. Author of The Historian L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi and the Roman Annalistic Tradition. Robert A. Guisepi: Author of Ancient Voices
(Re-printed by permission)
"Remember, Roman, that it is for thee to rule the nations. This shall be thy task, to impose the ways of peace, to spare the vanquished, and to tame the proud by war."
Author: Napoleon III
Caesar Conquers Gaul
In Caesar's military performances the Gallic war plays the most important
part, as shown in his Commentaries, his sole extant literary work and almost
the only authority for this part of Roman history.
Cisalpine Gaul - that portion lying on the southern or Italian side of
the Alps - came partly under the dominion of Rome as early as B.C. 282, when a
Roman colony was founded at Sena Gallica. This division of Gaul was wholly
conquered by B.C. 191; and in B.C. 43, having been made a Roman province, it
became a part of Italy.
Transalpine Gaul - that part lying north and northwest of the Alps from
Rome - comprised in Caesar's day three divisions: Aquitaine to the southwest,
Celtic Gaul in the middle, and Belgic Gaul to the northwest. The region was
inhabited by various tribes having neither unity of race nor of customs
whereby nationality becomes distinguished. Toward the close of the second
century B.C. the Romans made their first settlements in Transalpine Gaul, in
the southeastern part. At the time when Caesar became proconsul in Gaul, B.C.
58, the province was in a state of tranquillity, but Fortune seemed determined
that he should have great opportunities for the display of his military
genius, and, when Asia had been subdued by Pompey, "conferred what remained to
be done in Europe upon Caesar." The attempt of the Helvetti to leave their
homes in the Alps for new dwelling-places in Gaul served him as an occasion
for war. As they were crossing the Arar (now Saone) he attacked and routed
them, later defeated them again, and at last drove them back to their own
The story of the long war, with its various campaigns, has become
familiar to the world's readers through the masterly account of Caesar
himself, known to "every schoolboy" who advances to the dignity of classical
studies. In the end the country between the Pyrenees and the Rhine was
subjugated, and for several centuries it remained a Roman province.
At the time when the history is taken up in the following narrative by
Napoleon III, the great rebellion, B.C. 52, had sustained a heavy blow in the
surrender of Alesia, and the capture of the heroic chief and leader of the
insurrection, Vercingetorix, whom Caesar exhibited in his triumph at Rome,
B.C. 46, and then caused to be put to death.
The distinguished author of the article says he wrote" for the purpose of
proving that when Providence raises up such men as Caesar, Charlemagne, and
Napoleon it is to trace out to peoples the path they ought to follow, to stamp
with the seal of their genius a new era, and to accomplish in a few years the
work of many centuries." The work was prepared [vide Manual of Historical
Literature: Adams] with the utmost care - a care which extended in some
instances to special surveys, to insure perfect accuracy in the descriptions,
Caesar Conquers Gaul
The capture of Alesia and that of Vercingetorix, in spite of the united
efforts of all Gaul, naturally gave Caesar hopes of a general submission; and
he therefore believed that he could leave his army during the winter to rest
quietly in its quarters from the hard labors which had lasted without
interruption during the whole of the past summer. But the spirit of
insurrection was not extinct among the Gauls; and convinced by experience that
whatever might be their number they could not in a body cope with troops
inured to war, they resolved, by partial insurrections raised on all points at
once, to divide the attention and the forces of the Romans as their only
chance of resisting them with advantage.
Caesar was unwilling to leave them time to realize this new plan, but
gave the command of his winter quarters to his quaestor, Mark Antony; quitted
Bibracte on the day before the Calends of January (the 25th of December) with
an escort of cavalry, joined the Thirteenth legion, which was in winter
quarters among the Bituriges, not far from the frontier of the Aldui, and
called to him the Eleventh legion, which was the nearest at hand. Having left
two cohorts of each legion to guard the baggage, he proceeded toward the
fertile country of the Bituriges, a vast territory, where the presence of a
single legion was insufficient to put a stop to the preparations for
His sudden arrival in the midst of men without distrust, who were spread
over the open country, produced the result which he expected. They were
surprised before they could enter into their oppidae - for Caesar had strictly
forbidden everything which might have raised their suspicion; especially the
application of fire, which usually betrays the sudden presence of an enemy.
Several thousands of captives were made. Those who succeeded in escaping
sought in vain a refuge among the neighboring nations. Caesar, by forced
marches, came up with them everywhere and obliged each tribe to think of its
own safety before that of others.
This activity held the populations in their fidelity, and through fear
engaged the wavering to submit to the conditions of peace. Thus the
Bituriges, seeing that Caesar offered them an easy way to recover his
protection, and that the neighboring states had suffered no other chastisement
than that of having to deliver hostages, did not hesitate in submitting.
The soldiers of the Eleventh and Thirteenth legions had, during the
winter, supported with rare constancy the fatigues of very difficult marches
in intolerable cold. To reward them he promised to give by way of prize-money
two hundred sestertii to each soldier and two thousand to each centurion. He
then sent them into their winter quarters and returned to Bibracte after an
absence of forty days. While he was there, dispensing justice, the Bituriges
came to implore his support against the attacks of the Carnutes. Although it
was only eighteen days since he returned, he marched again at the head of two
legions - the Sixth and the Fourteenth - which had been placed on the Saone to
insure the supply of provisions.
On his approach the Carnutes, taught by the fate of others, abandoned
their miserable huts - which they had erected on the site of their burgs and
oppida destroyed in the last campaign - and fled in every direction.
Caesar, unwilling to expose his soldiers to the rigor of the season,
established his camp at Genabum (Gien), and lodged them partly in the huts
which had remained undestroyed, partly in tents under penthouses covered with
straw. The cavalry and auxiliary infantry were sent in pursuit of the
Carnutes, who, hunted down everywhere, and without shelter, took refuge in the
After having dispersed some rebellious meetings and stifled the germs of
an insurrection, Caesar believed that the summer would pass without any
serious war. He left therefore at Genabum the two legions he had with him,
and gave the command of them to C. Trebonius.
Nevertheless, he learned by several intimations from the Remi that the
Bellovaci and neighboring peoples, with Correus and Commius at their head,
were collecting troops to make an inroad on the territory of the Suessiones,
who had been placed - since the campaign of 697 - under the dependence of the
He considered that he regarded his interest as well as his dignity in
protecting allies who had deserved so well of the republic. He again drew the
Eleventh legion from its winter quarters, sent written orders to C. Fabius,
who was encamped in the country of the Remi, to bring into that of the
Suessiones the two legions under his command, and demanded one of his legions
from Labienus, who was at Besancon. Thus without taking any rest himself he
shared the fatigues among the legions by turns, as far as the position of the
winter quarters and the necessities of the war permitted.
When this army was assembled he marched against the Bellovaci,
established his camp on their territory, and sent cavalry in every direction
in order to make some prisoners and learn from them the designs of the enemy.
The cavalry reported that the emigration was general, and that the few
inhabitants who were to be seen were not remaining behind in order to apply
themselves to agriculture, but to act as spies upon the Romans.
Caesar by interrogating the prisoners learned that all the Bellovaci able
to fight had assembled on one spot, and that they had been joined by the
Ambiani, the Aulerci, the Caletes, the Veliocasses, and the Atrebates. Their
camp was in a forest on a height surrounded by marshes - Mont Saint Marc, in
the forest of Compiegne; their baggage had been transported to more distant
woods. The command was divided among several chiefs, but the greater part
obeyed Correus on account of his well-known hatred of the Romans. Commius had
a few days before gone to seek succor from the numerous Germans who lived in
great numbers in the neighboring counties - probably those on the banks of the
The Bellovaci resolved with one accord to give Caesar battle, if, as
report said, he was advancing with only three legions; for they would not run
the risk of having afterward to encounter his entire army. If, on the
contrary, the Romans were advancing with more considerable forces they
proposed to keep their positions and confine themselves to intercepting, by
means of ambuscades, the provisions and forage, which were very scarce at that
This plan, confirmed by many reports, seemed to Caesar full of prudence
and altogether contrary to the usual rashness of the barbarians. He took
therefore every possible care to dissimulate as to the number of his troops.
He had with him the Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth legions, composed of old
soldiers of tried valor, and the Eleventh, which, formed of picked young men
who had gone through eight campaigns, deserved his confidence, although it
could not be compared with the others with regard to bravery and experience in
war. In order to deceive the enemy by showing them only three legions - the
only number they were willing to fight - he placed the Seventh, Eighth, and
Ninth in one line; while the baggage, which was not very considerable, was
placed behind under the protection of the Eleventh legion, which closed the
march. In this order, which formed almost a square, he came unawares in sight
of the Bellovaci. At the unexpected view of the legions, which advanced in
order of battle and with a firm step, they lost their courage and, instead of
attacking, as they had engaged to do, they confined themselves to drawing
themselves up before their camp without leaving the height. A valley deeper
than it was wide separated the two armies.
On account of this obstacle and the numerical superiority of the
barbarians, Caesar, though he had wished for battle, abandoned the idea of
attacking them and placed his camp opposite that of the Gauls in a strong
position. He caused it to be surrounded with a parapet twelve feet high,
surmounted by accessory works proportioned to the importance of the
retrenchment and preceded by a double fosse fifteen feet wide, with a square
bottom. Towers of three stories were constructed from distance to distance
and united together by covered bridges, the exterior parts of which were
protected by hurdle-work. In this manner the camp was protected not only by a
double fosse, but also by a double row of defenders, some of whom, placed on
the bridges, could from this elevated and sheltered position throw their
missiles farther and with a better aim; while the others, placed on the
vallum, nearer to the enemy, were protected by the bridges from the missiles
which showered down upon them. The entrances were defended by means of higher
towers and were closed with gates.
These formidable retrenchments had a double aim - to increase the
confidence of the barbarians by making them believe that they were feared, and
next to allow the number of the garrison to be reduced with safety when they
had to go far for provisions. For some days there were no serious
engagements, but slight skirmishes in the marshy plain which extended between
the two camps. The capture, however, of a few foragers did not fail to swell
the presumption of the barbarians, which was still more increased by the
arrival of Commius, although he had brought only five hundred German cavalry.
The enemy remained for several days shut up in its impregnable position.
Caesar judged that an assault would cost too many lives; an investment alone
seemed to him opportune, but it would require a greater number of troops.
He wrote thereupon to Trebonius to send him as soon as possible the
Thirteenth legion, which, under the command of T. Sextius, was in winter
quarters among the Bituriges, to join it with the Sixth and the Fourteenth
(which the first of these lieutenants commanded at Genabum), and to come
himself with these three legions by forced marches.
During this time he employed the numerous cavalry of the Remi, the
Lingones and the other allies, to protect the foragers and to prevent
surprises, but this daily service, as is often the case, ended by being
negligently performed. And one day the Remi, pursuing the Bellovaci with too
much ardor, fell into an ambuscade. In withdrawing they were surrounded by
foot-soldiers in the midst of whom Vertiscus, their chief, met with his death.
True to his Gaulish nature, he would not allow his age to exempt him from
commanding and mounting on horseback, although he was hardly able to keep his
seat. His death and this feeble advantage raised the self-confidence of the
barbarians still more, but it rendered the Romans more circumspect.
Nevertheless, in one of the skirmishes which were continually taking
place within sight of the two camps about the fordable places of the marsh,
the German infantry - which Caesar had sent for from beyond the Rhine in order
to mix them with the cavalry - joined in a body, boldly crossed the marsh,
and, meeting with little resistance, continued the pursuit with such
impetuosity that fear seized not only the enemy who fought, but even those who
were in reserve. Instead of availing themselves of the advantages of the
ground, all fled in a cowardly manner. They did not stop until they were
within their camp, and some even were not ashamed to fly beyond it. This
defeat caused a general discouragement, for the Gauls were as easily daunted
by the least reverse as they were made arrogant by the smallest success.
Day after day was passing in this manner when Caesar was informed of the
arrival of C. Trebonius and his troops, which raised the number of his legions
to seven. The chiefs of the Bellovaci then feared an investment like that of
Alesia, and resolved to quit their position. They sent away by night the old
men, the infirm, the unarmed men, and the part of the baggage which they had
kept with them. Scarcely was this confused multitude in motion - embarrassed
by its own mass and its numerous chariots - when daylight surprised it, and
the troops had to be drawn up in line before the camp to give the column time
to move away. Caesar saw no advantage either in giving battle to those who
were in position, nor, on account of the steepness of the hill, in pursuing
those who were making their retreat; he resolved, nevertheless, to make two
legions advance in order to disturb the enemy in its retreat. Having observed
that the mountain on which the Gauls were established was connected with
another height (Mont Collet), from which it was only separated by a narrow
valley, he ordered bridges to be thrown across the marsh. The legions crossed
over them and soon attained the summit of the height, which was defended on
both sides by abrupt declivities.
There he collected his troops and advanced in order to battle up to the
extremity of the plateau, whence the engines placed in battery could reach the
masses of the enemy with their missiles.
The barbarians, rendered confident by the advantage of their position,
were ready to accept battle if the Romans dared to attack the mountain;
besides, they were afraid to withdraw their troops successively, as, if
divided, they might have been thrown into disorder. This attitude led Caesar
to resolve upon leaving twenty cohorts under arms, and on tracing a camp on
this spot, and retrenching it. When the works were completed the legions were
placed before the retrenchments and the cavalry distributed with their horses
bridled at the outposts. The Bellovaci had recourse to a stratagem in order
to effect their retreat. They passed from hand to hand the fascines and the
straw on which, according to the Gaulish custom, they were in the habit of
sitting, preserving at the same time their order of battle; placed them in
front of the camp, and toward the close of the day, on a preconcerted signal,
set fire to them. Immediately a vast flame concealed from the Romans the
Gaulish troops, who fled in haste.
Although the fire prevented Caesar from seeing the retreat of the enemy
he suspected it. He ordered his legions to advance, and sent the cavalry in
pursuit, but he marched slowly in fear of some stratagem, suspecting the
barbarians to have formed the design of drawing the Romans to disadvantageous
ground. Besides, the cavalry did not dare to ride through the smoke and
flames; and thus the Bellovaci were able to pass over a distance of ten miles
and halt in a place strongly fortified by nature (Mont Ganelon), where they
pitched their camp. In this position they confined themselves to placing
cavalry and infantry in frequent ambuscades, thus inflicting great damage on
the Romans when they went to forage. After several encounters of this kind
Caesar learned by a prisoner that Correus, chief of the Bellovaci, with six
thousand picked infantry and one thousand horsemen, was preparing an ambuscade
in places where the abundance of corn and forage was likely to attract the
Romans. In consequence of this information he sent forward the cavalry, which
was always employed to protect the foragers, and joined with them some
light-armed auxiliaries, while he himself, with a greater number of legions,
followed them as closely as possible.
The enemy had posted themselves in a plain - that of Choisyau-Bac - of
about one thousand paces in length and the same in breadth, surrounded on one
side by forests, on the other by a river which was difficult to pass (the
Aisne). The cavalry becoming acquainted with the designs of the Gauls and
feeling themselves supported, advanced resolutely in squadrons toward this
plain, which was surrounded with ambushes on all sides.
Correus, seeing them arrive in this manner, believed the opportunity
favorable for the execution of his plan and began by attacking the first
squadrons with a few men. The Romans sustained the shock without
concentrating themselves in a mass on the same point, "which," says Hirtius,
"usually happens in cavalry engagements, and leads always to a dangerous
confusion." There, on the contrary, the squadrons, remaining separated, fought
in detached bodies, and when one of them advanced, its flanks were protected
by the others. Correus then ordered the rest of his cavalry to issue from the
woods. An obstinate combat began on all sides without any decisive result
until the enemy's infantry, debouching from the forest in close ranks, forced
the Roman cavalry to fall back. The lightly armed soldiers who preceded the
legions placed themselves between the squadrons and restored the fortune of
the combat. After a certain time the troops, animated by the approach of the
legions and the arrival of Caesar, and ambitious of obtaining alone the honor
of the victory, redoubled their efforts and gained the advantage. The enemy,
on the other hand, were discouraged and took to flight, but were stopped by
the very obstacles which they intended to throw in the way of the Romans. A
small number, nevertheless, escaped through the forest and crossed the river.
Correus, who remained unshaken under this catastrophe, obstinately refused to
surrender, and fell pierced with wounds. After this success Caesar hoped that
if he continued his march the enemy in dismay would abandon his camp, which
was only eight miles from the field of battle. He therefore crossed the
Aisne, though not without great difficulties.
The Bellovaci and their allies, informed by the fugitives of the death of
Correus, of the loss of their cavalry and the flower of their infantry, and
fearing every moment to see the Romans appear, convoked by sound of trumpet a
general assembly and decided by acclamation to send deputies and hostages to
the proconsul. The barbarians implored forgiveness, alleging that this last
defeat had ruined their power, and that the death of Correus, the instigator
of the war, delivered them from oppression, for, during his life, it was not
the senate which governed, but an ignorant multitude. To their prayers Caesar
replied that last year the Bellovaci had revolted in concert with the other
Gaulish peoples, but that they alone had persisted in the revolt. It was very
convenient to throw their faults upon those who were dead, but how could it be
believed that with nothing but the help of a weak populace a man should have
had sufficient influence to raise and sustain a war contrary to the will of
the chiefs, the decision of the senate, and the desire of honest people?
However, the evil which they had drawn upon themselves was for him a
The following night the Bellovaci and their allies submitted, with the
exception of Commius, who fled to the country from which he had but recently
drawn support. He had not dared to trust the Romans for the following reason:
"The year before, in the absence of Caesar, T. Labienus, informed that Commius
was conspiring and preparing an insurrection, thought that without accusing
him of bad faith," says Hirtius, "he could repress his treason." ("Under
pretext of an interview he sent C. Volusenus Quadratus, with some centurions,
to kill him; but when they were in the presence of the Gaulish chief the
centurion who was to strike him missed his blow and only wounded him; swords
were drawn on both sides and Commius had time to escape.")
The most warlike tribes had been vanquished and none of them dreamed of
further revolt. Nevertheless, many inhabitants of the newly conquered
countries abandoned the towns and the fields in order to withdrawn themselves
from the Roman dominion. Caesar, in order to put a stop to this emigration,
distributed his army in different countries. He ordered the quaestor, Mark
Antony, to come to him with the Twelfth legion, and sent the lieutenant Fabius
with twenty-five cohorts into an opposite part of Gaul - to the country
situated between the Creuse and the Vienne - where it was said that several
tribes were in arms, and where the lieutenant, Caninius Rebilus, who commanded
with two legions, did not appear to be sufficiently strong. Lastly, he ordered
T. Labienus to join him in person and to send the Fifteenth legion, which he
had under his command, into Cisalpine Gaul to protect the colonies of Roman
citizens there against the sudden inroads of the barbarians, who the summer
before had attacked the Tergestini (the inhabitants of Trieste).
As for Caesar, he proceeded with four legions to the territory of the
Eburones to lay it waste. As he could not secure Ambiorix, who was still
wandering at large, he thought it advisable to destroy everything by fire and
swords, persuaded that this chief would never dare to return to a country upon
which he had brought such a terrible calamity. The legions and the
auxiliaries were charged with the execution of this plan. Then he sent
Labienus, with two legions, to the country of the Treviri, who, always at war
with the Germans, were only kept in obedience by the presence of a Roman army.
During this time Caninius Rebilus, who had first been appointed to go
into the country of the Ruteni, but who had been detained by petty
insurrections in the region situated between the Creuse and the Vienne,
learned that numerous hostile bands were assembling in the country of the
Pictones. He was informed of this by letters from Duratius, their king, who,
amid the defection of a part of his people, had remained invariably faithful
to the Romans. He started immediately for Lemonum (Poitiers). On the road he
learned from prisoners that Duratius was shut up there and besieged by several
thousand men under the orders of Dumnacus, chief of the Andes.
Rebilus, at the head of two weak legions, did not dare to measure his
strength with the enemy; he contented himself with establishing his camp in a
strong position. At the news of his approach, Dumnacus raised the siege, and
marched to meet the legions, but after several days of fruitless attempts to
force their camp he returned to attack Lemonum.
Meanwhile, the lieutenant, Caius Fabius, occupied in pacifying several
other tribes, learned from Caninius Rebilus what was going on in the country
of the Pictones and marched without delay to the assistance of Duratius. The
news of the march of Fabius deprived Dumnacus of all hope of opposing, at the
same time, the troops shut up in Lemonum and the relieving army. He abandoned
the siege again in great haste, not thinking himself safe until he had placed
the Loire between himself and the Romans; but he could only pass that river
where there was a bridge (at Saumur). Before he had joined Rebilus, before he
had even obtained a sight of the enemy, Fabius, who came from the North, and
had lost no time, doubted not, from what he heard from the people of the
country, that Dumnacus, in his fear, had taken the road which led to that
bridge. He therefore marched thither with his legions, preceded at a short
distance by his cavalry. The latter surprised the column of Dumnacus on its
march, dispersed it, and returned to the camp laden with booty.
During the night of the following day Fabius again sent his cavalry
forward with orders to delay the march of the enemy so as to give time for the
arrival of the infantry. The two bodies of cavalry were soon engaged, but the
enemy, thinking he had to contend with only the same troops as the day before,
drew up his infantry in line so as to support the squadrons, when suddenly the
Roman legions appeared in order of battle. At this sight the barbarians were
struck with terror, the long train of baggage thrown into confusion, and the
infantry dispersed. More than twelve thousand men were killed and all the
baggage fell into the hands of the Romans.
Only five thousand fugitives escaped from this rout; they were received
by the Senonan, Drappes, the same who in the first revolt of the Gauls had
collected a crowd of vagabonds, slaves, exiles, and robbers to intercept the
convoys of the Romans.
They took the direction of the Narbonnese with the Cadurcan Lucterius who
had before attempted a similar invasion.
Rebilus pursued them with two legions in order to avoid the shame of
seeing the province suffering any injury from such a contemptible rabble. As
for Fabius, he led the twenty-five cohorts against the Carnutes and the other
tribes whose forces had already been reduced by the defeat they had suffered
from Damnacus. The Carnutes, though often beaten, had never been completely
subdued. They gave hostages, and the Armoricans followed their example.
Dumnacus, driven out of his own territory, went to seek a refuge in the
remotest part of Gaul.
Drappes and Lucterius, when they learned that they were pursued by
Rebilus and his two legions, gave up the design of penetrating into the
province; they halted in the country of the Cadurci and threw themselves into
the oppidum of Uxellodunum (Puy-d'Issolu, near Varac), an exceedingly strong
place formerly under the dependence of Lucterius, who soon incited the
inhabitants to revolt.
Rebilus appeared immediately before the town, which, surrounded on all
sides by steep rocks, was, even without being defended, difficult of access to
armed men. Knowing that there was in the oppidum so great a quantity of
baggage that the besieged could not send it away secretly without being
detected and overtaken by the cavalry, and even by the infantry, he divided
his cohorts into three bodies and established three camps on the highest
points. Next he ordered a countervallation to be made. On seeing these
preparations the besieged remembered the ill-fortune of Alesia, and feared a
similar fate. Lucterius, who had witnessed the horrors of famine during the
investment of that town, now took especial care of the provisions.
During this time the garrison of the oppidum attacked the redoubts of
Rebilus several times, which obliged him to interrupt the work of the
countervallation, which, indeed, he had not sufficient forces to defend.
Drappes and Lucterius established themselves at a distance of ten miles
from the oppidum, with the intention of introducing the provisions gradually.
They shared the duties between them. Drappes remained with part of the troops
to protect the camp. Lucterius, during the night-time, endeavored to
introduce beasts of burden into the town by a narrow and wooded path. The
noise of their march gave warning to the sentries. Rebilus, informed of what
was going on, ordered the cohorts to sally from the neighboring redoubts, and
at daybreak fell upon the convoy, the escort of which was slaughtered.
Lucterius, having escaped with a small number of his followers, was unable to
Rebilus soon learned from prisoners that the rest of the troops which had
left the oppidum were with Drappes at a distance of twelve miles, and that by
a fortunate chance not one fugitive had taken that direction to carry him news
of the last combat. The Roman general sent in advance all the cavalry and the
light German infantry; he followed them with one legion, without baggage,
leaving the other as a guard to the three camps. When he came near the enemy
he learned, by his scouts, that the barbarians - according to their custom of
neglecting the heights - had placed their camp on the banks of a river
(probably the Dordogne); that the Germans and the cavalry had surprised them,
and that they were already fighting. Rebilus then advanced rapidly at the
head of the legion drawn up in order of battle and took possession of the
As soon as the ensigns appeared, the cavalry redoubled its ardor; the
cohorts rushed forward from all sides and the Gauls were taken or killed. The
booty was immense and Drappes fell into the hands of the Romans.
Rebilus, after this successful exploit, which cost him but a few wounded,
returned under the walls of Uxellodunum. Fearing no longer any attack from
without, he set resolutely to work to continue his circumvallation. The day
after, C. Fabius arrived, followed by his troops, and shared with him the
labors of the siege. While the south of Gaul was the scene of serious
trouble, Caesar left the quaestor, Mark Antony, with fifteen cohorts in the
country of the Bellovaci. To deprive the Belgae of all idea of revolt he had
proceeded to the neighboring countries with two legions; had exacted hostages,
and restored confidence by his conciliating speeches. When he arrived among
the Carnutes - who the year before had been the first to revolt - he saw that
the remembrance of their conduct kept them in great alarm, and he resolved to
put an end to it by causing his vengeance to fall only upon Gutruatus, the
instigator of the war.
This man was brought in and delivered up. Although Caesar was naturally
inclined to be indulgent, he could not resist the tumultuous entreaties of his
soldiers, who made that chief responsible for all the dangers they had run and
for all the misery they had suffered. Gutruatus died under the stripes and
was afterward beheaded.
It was in the land of the Carnutes that Caesar received news, by the
letters of Rebilus, of the events which had taken place at Uxellodunum and of
the resistance of the besieged. Although a handful of men shut up in a
fortress was not very formidable, he judged it necessary to punish their
obstinacy, for fear that the Gauls should entertain the conviction that it was
not strength, but constancy, which had failed them in resisting the Romans;
and lest this example might encourage the other states which possessed
fortresses advantageously situated, to recover their independence.
Moreover, it was known everywhere among the Gauls that Caesar had only
one more summer to hold his command, and that after that time they would have
nothing more to fear. He left therefore the lieutenant Quintus Calenus at the
head of his two legions, with orders to follow him by ordinary marches, and,
with his cavalry, hastened by long marches toward Uxellodunum. Caesar,
arriving unexpectedly before the town, found it completely defended at all
accessible points. He judged that it could not be taken by assault (neque ab
oppugnatione recedi vidaret ulla conditione posse), and, as it was abundantly
provided with provisions, conceived the project of depriving the inhabitants
The mountain was surrounded almost on every side by very low ground, but
on one side there existed a valley through which a river (the Tourmente) ran.
As it flowed at the foot of two precipitous mountains the disposition of the
localities did not admit of turning it aside and conducting it into lower
channels. It was difficult for the besieged to come down to it, and the
Romans rendered the approaches to it still more dangerous. They placed posts
of archers and slingers, and brought engines which commanded all the slopes
which gave access to the river. The besieged had thenceforth no other means
of procuring water but by carrying it from an abundant spring which arose at
the foot of the wall three hundred feet from the channel of the Tourmente.
Caesar resolved to drain this spring, and for this purpose he did not hesitate
to attempt a laborious undertaking. Opposite the point where it rose he
ordered covered galleries to be pushed forward against the mountain, and under
protection of these a terrace to be raised - labors which were carried on in
the midst of continual fighting and weariness.
Although the besieged from their elevated position fought without danger
and wounded many Romans, yet the latter did not yield to discouragement, but
continued the work. At the same time they made a subterranean gallery, which,
running from the covered galleries, was intended to lead up to the spring.
This work, carried on free from all danger, was executed without being
perceived by the enemy. The terrace attained a height of sixty feet and was
surmounted by a tower of ten stories, which, without equalling the elevation
of the wall - a result it was impossible to obtain - still commanded the
fountain. Its approaches, battered by engines from the top of this tower,
became inaccessible. In consequence of this, many men and animals in the
place died of thirst. The besieged, terrified at this mortality, filled
barrels with pitch, grease, and shavings, and rolled them flaming upon the
Roman works, making at the same time a sally to prevent them from
extinguishing the fire. Soon it spread to the covered galleries and the
terrace, which stopped the progress of the inflammable materials.
Notwithstanding the difficult nature of the ground and the increasing
danger, the Romans still persevered in their struggle. The battle took place
on a height within sight of the army. Loud cries were raised on both sides.
Each individual sought to rival his fellow in zeal, and the more he was
exposed to view the more courageously he faced the missiles and the fire.
Caesar, as he was sustaining great loss, determined to feign an assault.
In order to create a diversion he ordered some cohorts to climb the hill on
all sides, uttering loud cries. This movement terrified the besieged, who,
fearing to be attacked at other points, called back to the defence of the wall
those who were setting fire to the works. Then the Romans were enabled to
extinguish the flames. The Gauls, although exhausted by thirst and reduced to
a small number, ceased not to defend themselves vigorously. At length the
subterranean gallery having reached the source of the spring, the supply was
turned aside. The besieged, beholding the fountain suddenly become dry,
believed in their despair that it was an intervention of the gods, and,
submitting to necessity, surrendered.
Caesar considered that the pacification of Gaul would never be completed
if as strong a resistance was encountered in other towns. He thought it
advisable to spread terror by a severe example - so much the more so as "the
well-known mildness of his temper," says Hirtius, "would not allow this
necessary rigor to be ascribed to cruelty." He ordered that all those who had
borne arms should have their hands cut off, and sent them away living examples
of the punishment reserved for rebels.
Drappes, who had been taken prisoner, starved himself to death;
Lucterius, who had been arrested by the Arvernan Epasnactus (a friend of the
Romans), was delivered up to Caesar. While these events were taking place on
the banks of the Dordogne, Labienus, in a cavalry engagement, had gained a
decisive advantage over a part of the Treviri and Germans; had taken prisoner
their chief, and thus subjected a people who were always ready to support any
insurrection against the Romans. The Aeduan Surus fell also into his hands.
He was a chief distinguished for his courage and birth, and the only one of
that nation who had not yet laid down his arms.
From that moment Caesar considered Gaul to be completely pacified. He
resolved, however, to go himself to Aquitaine, which he had not yet visited
and which Publius Crassus had partly conquered. Arriving there at the head of
two legions, he obtained the complete submission of that country without
difficulty. All the tribes sent him hostages. He proceeded next to Narbonne
with a detachment of cavalry and charged his lieutenants to put the army into
winter quarters. Four legions, under the orders of Mark Antony, Caius
Trebonius, Publius Vatinius, and Q. Tullius, were quartered in Belgium, two
among the Aedui and two among the Turones on the frontier of the Carnutes, to
hold in check all the countries bordering on the ocean.
These two last legions took up their winter quarters on the territory of
the Lemovices, not far from the Arverni, so that no part of Gaul should be
without troops. Caesar remained but a short time in the province, presiding
hastily over the assemblies, determining cases of public dispute, and
rewarding those who had served him well. He had had occasion more than anyone
to know their sentiments individually, because during the general revolt of
Gaul the fidelity and succor of the province had aided him in triumphing over
it. When these affairs were settled he returned to his legions in Belgium and
took up hiswinter quarters at Nemetocenna (Arras).
There he was informed of the last attempts of Commius, who, continuing a
partisan war at the head of a small number of cavalry, intercepted the Roman
convoys. Mark Antony had charged C. Volusenus Quadratus, prefect of the
cavalry, to pursue him. He had accepted the task eagerly in the hope of
succeeding the second time better than the first, but Commius, taking
advantage of the rash ardor with which his enemy had rushed upon him, had
wounded him seriously and escaped. He was discouraged, however, and had
promised Mark Antony to retire to any spot which should be appointed him on
condition that he should never be compelled to appear before a Roman. This
condition having been accepted, he had given hostages. Gaul was hereby
subjugated. Death or slavery had carried off its principal citizens. Of all
the chiefs who had fought for its independence only two survived - Commius and
Banished far from their country they died in obscurity.
* Because we believe primary sources of history far surpass secondary sources, most of the lives of the following individuals are taken from ancient historians such as Plutarch, Pliny, Suetonius and Tacitus