Ancient Rome

 

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

 

B.C. 58-50

 

Introduction

 

     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

country.

 

     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,

etc.

 

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

insurrection.

 

     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

neighboring counties.

 

     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

Remi.

 

     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

Meuse.

 

     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

season.

 

     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

sufficient reparation.

 

     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

rejoin Drappes.

 

     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

heights.

 

     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

of water.

 

     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

Ambiorix.

 

     Banished far from their country they died in obscurity.

Main Page

World History Center

* 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