Saturday, 6 October 2012



Sabidius has previously translated Books I. II, III and V of Caesar's "Gallic War"; all of these translations with their separate introductions may be found elsewhere on this blog. This, the fourth book of Caesar's commentaries on the "Gallic War", provides an account of the campaigns which Caesar fought in the year 55 B.C., that is shortly after the renewal of the First Triumvirate between Pompey , Crassus and himself, which had led to a five-year extension of his proconsular imperium. While his victories in this year were not on such a spectacular scale as in the three previous years, his twin exploits of crossing the Rhine and sailing to Britain created new precedents for the Roman army and led to great enthusiasm in Rome. 

Before either of these events, however, Caesar was confronted with the invasion of Gaul by two German tribes, the Usipites and the Tencteri. While Caesar is renowned for his policy of  clemency towards defeated enemies, he was also capable of extreme ruthlessness when he felt the circumstances necessitated it. His brutal treatment of these two tribes (see Chapters 14-15 below) is perhaps the most notorious example of this. By seizing on a relatively small breach of a truce which he had arranged with these two tribes, he detained  their chiefs who had come to his camp to sue for peace, and then, having defeated their leaderless men, he proceeded to massacre up to 400,000 men, women and children, to the extent that these tribes were virtually wiped out. This savage treatment, and the breach of faith that had allegedly preceded it, appears to have caused some concern in Rome, and indeed it is reported in Plutarch's "Life of Caesar" that his bitter personal enemy, Cato the Younger, during a debate in the Senate went so far as to suggest that Caesar should be handed over to the barbarians in order to expiate that breach of faith, and thus avoid the divine vengeance which might otherwise fall upon the Roman people. While Cato's politically motivated diatribe cut no ice with Roman public opinion, and indeed the Senate, delighted at Caesar's twin exploits of crossing the Rhine and invading Britain voted an unprecedented thanksgiving of twenty days (see Chapter 38 below), there is little doubt that Caesar's treatment of the Usipetes and the Tencteri was cruel and verging on the treacherous. This is brought out by the brief and elliptical manner in which he glosses over what actually happened (see Chapters 14-15 once more). Caesar was a past master of using his apparently neutrally phrased narrative, always couched in the impersonal third person, to show his achievements and his decisions in the best possible light from the point of view of his own reputation, but when what had happened was perhaps somewhat less than creditable his approach is not to lie outright but to abbreviate, if not to obscure, the account. In this case, unpleasant as the facts in the business of the Usipetes and the Tencteri appear to be, Caesar would probably have justified his transactions on the grounds of absolute necessity. If the Rhine was to be established as a secure Eastern boundary for Gaul, he had to stop Gallic tribes from appealing to German tribes for help and to deter Germans from wishing to come over the Rhine into Gaul. In this context there can be little doubt that Caesar's ruthless suppression of the Usipetes and the Tencteri achieved its objectives.

While the two campaigns which followed, the crossing of the Rhine and the exploratory raid into Britain, may actually have achieved little of substance, these two exploits fired the imagination of his compatriots back in Rome and created great excitement. At the same time they provided a further boost to Caesar's prestige and political influence in Rome, which was of course the principal purpose behind them. The building of a bridge to span a river as broad as the Rhine was a truly remarkable achievement in itself. That it was done in only ten days is even more astonishing. The Romans were very proud of the engineering skills of their soldiers and indeed Caesar dwells lovingly on the details of the bridge-building in Chapter 17. The technical details are a little difficult to translate, and different translations feature different interpretations, but for this translator the description is made easier to understand by the sketch of the bridge and its components on page 52 of the textbook used.

The arrival of the Romans on the soil of Britain in the late summer of 55 B.C. is of course a date of great significance for British history, because it is the first recorded interaction between Britain and the mighty empire of Rome. In some ways Caesar's two visits, this one and the longer one in the following year, were false dawns, not only because little of substance was achieved as a result of them, but because the actual conquest of Britain by the Romans under the Emperor Claudius was delayed until 43 A.D. Nevertheless it is hard to exaggerate the excitement which Caesar's two visits to the mythical and mysterious island generated in Rome - almost akin to the lunar landing by American astronauts in 1969. And generations of British schoolchildren have listened to, and drawn pictures of, the evocative scene in Chapter 26 when the standard-bearer or "aquilifer" of the Tenth Legion leaps into the waves to encourage his reluctant comrades to make it to land. While both of Caesar's exploits in this year may seem like publicity stunts, they do also illustrate something else about Caesar, namely, his belief in his "lucky star" (see his "pristinam fortunam" at the end of Chapter 26), and his willingness to take risks which other Roman generals of his age would have sought to eschew.  By this stage his troops shared in this belief and would have followed him anywhere, as they indeed did in this year, and as they continued to do so in the years ahead.

The text for this translation comes from "Caesar: Gallic War IV", edited by Clement Bryans, M.A., and published by Macmillan in the "Elementary Classics" series in 1886.  As he has done in other recent translations, Sabidius has highlighted main verbs by the use of italics, and has underlined ablative absolute phrases, which are common in this as in other of Caesar's works. Once again, Sabidius had sought to produce a translation which sticks as closely as possible to the sentence structure of the Latin text. Where it has been considered desirable to offer a slightly more colloquial rendering of certain words or phrases, the more literal version is placed in brackets thereafter.

Chapter 1.

In that winter which followed - (now) this was the year with Gnaeus Pompeius (Magnus) (and) Marcus (Licinius) Crassus (as) consuls - the German Usipetes, and likewise the Tencteri, crossed the Rhine with a great multitude of men, not far from the sea, (at the point) where the the Roman armyine flows into (it). The reason for their crossing was (the fact) that, having been thoroughly harassed by the Suebi for several years, they were being hard pressed by war and were being prevented from the cultivation of their land. The nation of the Suebi is by far the greatest and the most warlike of all the Germans. They are said to have a hundred cantons, from each of which they draw a thousand armed men every year. The rest, who have stayed at home, maintain (lit. nourish) themselves and those men; the latter in turn are again under arms in the year afterwards, (while) the former remain at home. Thus neither agriculture nor the systematic practice (lit. the theory and practice) of war is interrupted. But among them there is not any private and (therefore) separate land, nor are they allowed (lit. is it permitted [to them]) to remain in one place (for) longer than a year for the purpose of habitation. They do not live much on corn, but for the most part on milk and cattle(-meat), and they are much (engaged) in hunting (excursions); (and) this circumstance, owing to their type of food and their daily exercise and the freedom of their life, in that from boyhood, having been trained by no service or discipline, they are said to do nothing at all against their inclination, both promotes (lit. nourishes) their strength and makes (them) men of an immense size of body. And indeed they have brought themselves to such a habit that (even) in the coldest places they do not have any clothing except animal-skins, on account of the scantiness of which a great part of their body is bare, and they bathe (lit. wash [themselves]) in the rivers.

Chapter 2.

There is access to traders more on this account, that they may have (someone) to whom they can sell (those things) which they have taken in war (rather) than because they require any thing to be imported. Nay even as to draught-horses, in which the Gauls delight very greatly and which they procure at a high price, they do not employ imported (ones) but the crooked and misshapen (ones) which are born among them, (and) by daily exercise they render these to be (capable) of the greatest labour. In cavalry actions they often leap down from their horses and fight on foot, and they have trained their horses  to remain in the same spot, (and) to these they retire (lit. betake themselves) speedily, whenever there is the need; nor, in accordance with their customs, is anything considered more shameful and more indolent than to make use of saddles. Accordingly, however few (they may be), they dare to advance against (lit. to approach) any number of horsemen equipped with saddles. [They do not allow any wine to be imported to them at all, because they think that men become enervated for the purpose of hardship being endured and are made effeminate by that commodity.]

Chapter 3.

They consider their greatest glory as a nation that the land on their borders should be unoccupied to the widest extent possible: (and they think) that it is made evident by this circumstance that a great number of states cannot withstand their force. So the land on one side is said to be untenanted for about sixty miles (lit. sixty thousand paces) from (the territory of) the Suebi. On the other side, the Ubii come close up, whose state was (once) extensive and prosperous, as it is conceived among Germans, and (who) are somewhat (lit. a little) more civilised than others of the same race, on account of the fact that they border on the Rhine, and traders keep visiting them frequently and they themselves have grown accustomed to the habits of the Gauls on account of their proximity (to them). Although the Suebi, having tested them often in many wars, have not been able to drive (them) from their territory on account of the size and importance of their state, yet they have made (them) their tributaries and have reduced (them so as to be) more humble and. weak (than they have ever been).

Chapter 4. 

In the same situation (lit. case) were the Usipetes and the Tencteri, of whom we have spoken above, who, although they withstood the force of the Suebi for many years, having at last been driven from their lands and having wandered for three years in many districts of Germany, reached the Rhine. The Menapii were inhabiting these regions and were holding lands, buildings and villages on each side of the river, but, greatly alarmed at the approach of so great a host, they withdrew from those buildings which they possessed across the river, and, having placed guards at different positions on the near side of the river, prevented the Germans from crossing. Since, having tried everything, they could neither force a crossing (lit. contend with force) on account of their lack of ships, nor cross over secretly because of the Menapian sentries, they pretended to retire (lit. turn themselves back) to their own settlements and districts, and, having proceeded on a three days' journey, they returned again, and, the whole of this march having been completed by their cavalry in a single night, they caught the Menapii unaware and off-guard, who, having been informed (lit. made more certain) of the departure of the Germans by their scouts, had moved back into their villages across the Rhine without fear. These having been slain and their ships having been seized, they crossed the river before that section of the Menapii who were on the near side of the Rhine could be informed (lit. made more sure), and, all their buildings having been occupied, they maintained themselves on their supplies for the remaining part of the winter.

Chapter 5.

Having been informed of these things, and fearing the vacillation of the Gauls, because they are fickle with regard to any plans to be adopted and are generally eager for change (lit. new things), Caesar considered that nothing should (lit. [was] suitable to) be entrusted to them. For it is (a mark) of Gallic custom both to compel travellers to stop, even against their will, and to enquire what each of them has heard or has learned about every subject, and in their towns a crowd surrounds any traders and forces (them) to declare from what regions they come and what affairs they know of there. Having been disturbed by these facts and reports, they often adopt (lit. enter into) resolutions on the most important matters, which it is necessary that they repent of at once (lit. on the spot), since they are slaves to uncertain rumours and most (of the traders) give answers invented (lit. reply with fictions) at their own inclination.

Chapter 6.

This custom having been learned about, Caesar, in order that he might not encounter a more serious war, sets out for the army earlier than he was accustomed (to do). When he had arrived thither, he discovered that those things which he had suspected would happen had (already) occurred; that embassies had been sent to the Germans by some (lit. not none) of the states, and that they had been urged to withdraw from the Rhine, and that everything which they had asked for will have been got ready. Having been inspired (lit. induced) by this expectation, the Germans were ranging more widely and had arrived at the territory of the Eburones and the Condrusi, who are dependants of the Treviri. The chieftains of Gaul having been summoned, Caesar considered that those things which he had learned should (lit. were needing to) be concealed by him, and, their spirits having been calmed and encouraged, and cavalry having been ordered, he decided to wage war on (lit. with) the Germans.

Chapter 7.

A corn supply having been provided and his cavalry having been selected, he began to make a march to those places, in which locations he heard that the Germans were. When he was a few days' march away from those (places), envoys came from them, whose speech was as follows: that the Germans neither made war upon the Roman people first, but nor did they decline, if they were provoked, to (lit. but that they would) contend in arms, in that it was the custom of the Germans, handed down by their ancestors, to resist anyone who made war (upon them) and not to ask for quarter (lit. to beg off). That they said these things however, that they came (there) reluctantly, having been expelled from their home; if the Romans wanted their good-will, let them either assign them lands, or allow (them) to retain those (lands) which they had won by (force of) arms: that they yielded to the Suebi alone, to whom not even the immortal gods could be equal; that there was no one else on earth whom they could not conquer.

Chapter 8.

To these (remarks) Caesar replied as it seemed proper (to answer); but the conclusion of his speech was (as follows): that he could have (lit. there could be to him) no alliance with them, if they remained in Gaul; that it was not right that (those) who could not defend their own territories should seize (those) of others; that there were not any lands lying vacant in Gaul which could be given (away) to such an especially large horde without injury (to others); but that they might (lit. that it was permitted [to them]), if they wished, (lit. to) settle in the territories of the Ubii, whose ambassadors were with him (to) complain about the outrages of the Suebi and (to) seek help from him: (and) that he would require this from the Ubii.

Chapter 9.

The envoys said that they would report these things to their (people) and that, the matter having been deliberated on, they would return to Caesar three days later (lit. after the third day): in the meantime they asked that he should not move his camp nearer to them. Caesar said that not even that (request) could be obtained from him. For he had learned that a great part of their cavalry had been sent across the Meuse to the (lands of) the Ambivariti some days before for the purpose of plundering and foraging: he supposed that this cavalry was awaited and that the delay was interposed because of that reason.

Chapter 10.

The Meuse flows forth from the Vosges mountain (range), which is in the territory of the Lingones, and, a certain branch having been received from the Rhine, which is called the Waal, forms the island of the Batavi, and no further than eighty miles (lit. thousand paces) from the Ocean it flows into the Rhine. The Rhine, however, rises in the (land of the) Lepontii, who live in the Alps, and runs at full speed for a long distance through the territories of the Nantuates, Helvetii, Sequani, Mediomatrices, Tibuci and Treviri, and where it approached the Ocean it flows down into several branches, many large islands having been formed, a great part of which are inhabited by savage and barbarous tribes, of which there are (some) that are supposed to live on fish and birds' eggs, and flows into the Ocean by many mouths.

Chapter 11.

When Caesar was not more than twelve miles (lit. thousand paces) distant from the enemy, their envoys returned to him, as had been arranged; they, meeting (him) on the march, earnestly entreated him not to advance any further. When they could not obtain this (request), they asked him to send (word) (lit. send forward) to those cavalrymen who had gone out in front of the column and prevent them from fighting, and to give (them) the opportunity of sending envoys to the Ubii; if the chieftains and council of the latter would give them security by an oath, they indicated that they would accept those terms which might be proposed by Caesar; (and they asked that) he might give them the space of three days for these matters to be settled. Caesar thought that all these (pleas) tended to that same (end), (namely) that, a delay of three days having been interposed, their cavalry, which was absent, might return; however, he said that he would not, on that day, advance further than four miles (lit. thousand paces) for the sake of (procuring) water; (and that) as large a number (of them) as possible should assemble thither on the following day, so that he could learn about their demands. Meanwhile, he sends (word) to the commanders, who had gone forward with the whole cavalry, to tell (them) not to provoke the enemy to an engagement, and, if they were provoked themselves, (to) hold their ground, until he himself had come up nearer with the army.

Chapter 12.

But the enemy, as soon as (lit. when first) they saw our cavalry, the number of which was five thousand, whereas they had not more than eight hundred horsemen, because those who had gone across the Meuse for the purpose of foraging had not yet returned, our men being in no way fearful, because their envoys had departed from Caesar (only) a short (time) before, and that day had been requested by them for a truce, a charge having been made, had thrown our men into disorder; (our men) in turn resisting, they jumped down on to their feet, in accordance with their custom, our horses having been stabbed in the belly (lit. underneath), and several of our men having been thrown to the ground, they put the rest to flight and drove (them) into such a state of panic that they did not desist from flight until they had come in sight of our column. In that battle seventy-four of our horsemen were (lit. are) slain, among them a very brave man, Piso of Aquitania, sprung from a most distinguished line, whose grandfather had held the sovereignty in his state, (and who) had been named (as) a friend by our senate. He, when he was trying to bring help to his brother, (who had been) hemmed in by the enemy, rescued him from danger, (but) he himself, having been thrown from his wounded horse, resisted very bravely for as long as he could: when, having been surrounded, he had fallen, many wounds having been received, and his brother, who had at that time retired from the fray, had noticed this from afar, his horse having been spurred on, he flung himself upon (lit. offered himself to) the enemy and was killed.

Chapter 13. 

This engagement having occurred, Caesar considered that the envoys should no longer (lit. were no longer worthy to) be heard by him, nor should any conditions (lit. were any conditions fit to) be accepted (by him) from those who, peace having been sought, had made war unprovoked (lit. of their own accord) through treachery and ambush; he judged that it would indeed be the height of folly to wait, while the enemy's forces should be increased and their cavalry should return, and, the fickleness of the Gauls having been appreciatedhe felt how much weight the enemy had acquired in their minds from a single engagement; (and so) he concluded that no opportunity should be given to them for the purpose of plans being adopted. These things having been determined, and his plans having been shared with his legates and his quaestor, so that that he should not let pass any chance of a battle (lit. any battle-day), an event occurred very fortuitously, (namely) that on the morning of the day after that day, practising the same deceit and dissimulation, a large body of Germans, all the chieftains and the senior men in point of birth having been included, came to him in his camp, partly, as it was asserted, for the sake of themselves being exculpated, in that they had joined battle on the previous day contrary to what had been agreed and (to what) they themselves had requested, (and) partly to obtain whatever they could by deception in way of the truce. Having been delighted that they had come into his power (lit. had been offered to him), he ordered that they should be detained, (and) he himself led all his forces out of the camp, and commanded the cavalry, which he thought to have been intimidated by the recent engagement, to follow in the rear of the column.

Chapter 14.

A triple line having been formed, and a march of eight miles having been quickly accomplished, he arrived at the enemy's camp before the Germans could perceive what was being done. Having been suddenly panic-stricken by all the circumstances, both by the speed of our arrival and the departure of their (leaders), the opportunity having been afforded neither for a plan to be adopted nor for arms to be taken up, they were  thrown into doubt as to whether it was better to lead their forces against the enemy, or to defend their camp, or to seek safety in flight. When their consternation was indicated by their uproar and tumult, our soldiers, enraged by the treachery of the previous day, burst into their camp. In this place (those) who could quickly take up their arms resisted our men for a short while and joined battle amongst their carts and baggage-wagons; but the rest of the horde, (consisting) of children and women [for they had left their homes and crossed the Rhine with all their (families)] began to flee in all directions; Caesar sent his cavalry with the purpose of them being pursued.

Chapter 15.

The Germans, a noise having been heard behind their backs, when they saw that their (families) were being slain, their arms having been thrown away and their war-standards having been abandoned, rushed wildly (lit. flung themselves) out of their camp, and, when they had arrived at the confluence of the Meuse and the Rhine, further flight having been despaired of, (and) a great number having been killed, the survivors threw themselves headlong into the river and there perished, overcome by fear, fatigue (and) the force of the stream. Our men, all unharmed to a single (man), with very few having been wounded, (and freed) from the dread of a great war, since the number of the enemy had been four hundred and thirty thousand souls, retired (lit. betook themselves) to their camp. Caesar gave the opportunity of departing to those who had been retained in the camp. They, fearing punishments and tortures (at the hands) of the Gauls, whose lands they had ravaged (lit. harassed) said that they wished to remain with him. Caesar gave them the freedom (to do so).


Chapter 16.

The war with the Germans having been finished, Caesar decided, for many reasons, that he should cross the Rhine (lit. that the Rhine was needing to be crossed by him); of these the most weighty was that (fact) that, since he saw the Germans so easily induced to go into Gaul, he wanted them to have fears for their own possessions as well, when they understood that the army of the Roman people both could and dared to cross the Rhine. And besides (lit. it was also added that) that section of the cavalry of the Usipetes and the Tencteri which, (as) I have mentioned above, had crossed the Meuse for the sake of plundering and foraging, and had not taken part in the battle, after the rout of their countrymen had withdrawn (lit. had betaken themselves) across the Rhine into the territory of the Sugambri, and had joined themselves together with them. When Caesar had sent messengers to them to demand that they should hand over to him (those) who had made war on him and on Gaul, they replied (as follows): that the Rhine was the boundary of the empire of the Roman people: if he thought (it was) unjust for the Germans to go into Gaul without his consent (lit. with him [being] unwilling), why did he claim that anything across the Rhine was under his dominion or power? The Ubii, on the other hand, who alone out of all those people living across the Rhine had sent ambassadors to Caesar, (and) had made an alliance and given hostages, earnestly entreated (him) to bring them assistance, because they were being grievously oppressed by the Suebi; or, if he were prevented from doing this by affairs of state, at least (lit. only) to transport his army across the Rhine: (they said) that that would be sufficient for their assistance and (their) hope for the future (lit. subsequent time). That the name and the reputation of his army was so great, even with regard to the remotest tribes of the Germans, Ariovistus having been defeated and this most recent battle having occurred, that they could be secure under the fame and friendship of the Roman people. They promised a large supply of boats for the purpose of the army being transported.

Chapter 17.

For those reasons which I have mentioned, Caesar had resolved to cross the Rhine; but he thought that it was not sufficiently safe, and he judged that it was not (a reflection) of his own dignity or (that) of the Roman people, to cross by boats. Therefore, although the very great difficulty of a bridge being constructed was presented (to him), on account of the width, the fast current (lit. the rapidity), and the depth of the river, yet he considered that he should attempt to do this (lit. that it was needing to be attempted by him) or, otherwise, that he should not lead the army across (lit. that the army was not due to be led across). He coupled together (lit. between themselves) at a distance of two feet pairs of beams a foot and a half (thick), sharpened a little at the base (and in length) measured in proportion to the depth of the river. When he had fixed these things, (which had been) lowered into the river by means of derricks, he had (them) driven home with pile-drivers, not vertically (lit. straight at the perpendicular) in the manner of a pile, but slanting forwards and sloping, so that they inclined in accordance with the flow (lit. natural tendency) of the stream, (and) opposite to these he also placed two (beams), coupled in the same manner, at a distance of forty feet from the base (of each), directed (lit. turned) against the force and current (lit. onrush) of the river. Both of these (pairs) were kept apart by timbers two feet (thick), inserted from above, as far as (the distance between) the joining of these beams (lit. as far as the joining of these beams was apart), with a pair of clamps at the extremities at each end; these (beams) having been kept apart and secured in opposite directions, so great was the strength of the work, and such (was) the arrangement of the structure, that the greater the force of the water (that) rushed down (lit. spurred itself on), the more tightly (the beams which had been) fastened held together. These (trestles) were protected by timber laid down lengthwise and covered over with saplings (lit. long poles) and fascines (i.e. faggots of brushwood); and in addition (lit. notwithstanding [that]) piles were also driven in aslant on the side of the river, placed underneath as a buttress and connected with the whole structure (lit. work), in order to withstand the force of the river, and likewise other (piles) (were driven in) a little distance above the bridge, so that, if the trunks of trees, or if boats, were despatched by the barbarians for the purpose of the work being broken down, the force of such things might be reduced, and that they might not harm the bridge.

Chapter 18.

Within ten days (from the time) in which the timber had begun to be collected, the whole work having been completed, the army is taken across. A strong guard having been left at each end of the bridge, Caesar hastens into the territory of the Sugambri. In the meantime, ambassadors come to him from several states; to these seeking peace and an alliance, he replies in a generous manner, and orders hostages to be brought to him. (But) the Sugambri, from that (very) time at which the bridge was begun to be built, flight having been prepared, with those, whom they had among them from the Tencteri and Usipetes encouraging (this), had quitted their territory, and had carried away all their (possessions) and hid themselves in remote fastnesses and forests.

Chapter 19.

Having stayed in their territory for a few days, all their villages and houses having been burned and their corn having been cut, Caesar proceeded (betook himself) into the territory of the Ubii, and, having promised (that he would give) them help if they were hard pressed by the Suebi, he learned these things from them: that the Suebi, after they had discovered that a bridge was being built, a council having been held in accordance with their custom, had despatched messengers (telling the people) to evacuate their towns, (and) lodge their  children, wives and all their (possessions) in the forests, and that all who could bear arms were to gather in one place; that this had been chosen (in) about the middle of those districts which the Suebi held: that here they were awaiting the arrival of the Romans and had determined to fight it out on this spot. When Caesar discovered this, all those things having been accomplished, for the purpose of which he had determined to lead his army across, (namely) to strike terror into the Germans, to take vengeance on the Sugambri, (and) to free the Ubii from their blockade, eighteen days altogether having been spent across the Rhine, (and) thinking that enough (had been) accomplished, both for the purpose of renown and for the purpose of expediency, he withdrew (lit. betook himself) to Gaul, and broke down the bridge.


Chapter 20.

With (only) a small part of the summer having been left, yet Caesar, although in these regions, because all of Gaul looks towards the north (lit. the seven plough-oxen), winters are early, was intent upon setting out for Britain, because he understood that in almost all his campaigns against the Gauls assistance had been supplied to our enemies from there, and he considered that, (even) if the time of year should be insufficient for the purpose of war, still it would be of great service to him, if he had at least (lit. only) visited the island, and had observed the character of the people, and had learned about the localities, the harbours and the landing-grounds; (for) almost all of these things were unknown to the Gauls. For no one hardly ever went to that (place) except traders, nor even to them was any (part of it) known except the sea-coast and those districts opposite Gaul. Therefore, traders from all parts having been called to him, he could discover neither how great was the size of the island, nor what or how many tribes inhabited (it), nor what degree of skill in war (lit. what practice of war) they possessed or what customs they observed (lit. employed), nor what harbours were suitable for a great number of large ships.

Chapter 21.

For the purpose of these matters being known, before he were to make the attempt, thinking Gaius Volusenus to be suitable (for this), he sends (him) forward with a war-ship. He commissions him, all these things having been explored, to return to him as soon as possible. He himself with all his forces sets out for the (country of the) Morini, because from there was the shortest crossing to Britain. He commands ships from all parts of the neighbouring districts and the fleet, which he had built the previous summer for the war against the Veneti, to assemble in this place. In the meantime, his purpose having been discovered and having been reported to the Britons by traders, envoys from several of the island's states come to him to promise that they will give hostages and submit to the authority of the Roman people. These (envoys) having been heard, he, making promises generously and encouraging (them) to remain in that frame of mind, sends them back home, and together with them he sends Commius, whom, the Atrebates having been conquered, he had appointed (as) king there, (a man) whose courage and counsel he approved of, and whose influence was highly esteemed in these regions. He orders him (to) visit (as many) states as he can and encourage (them) to accept the protection of the Roman people. Volusenus, all districts having been observed, as far as the opportunity could be afforded to him, since he did not dare to leave his ship and entrust himself to barbarians, returns to Caesar on the fifth day and reports what things he had observed there.

Chapter 22.

While Caesar remains in these places for the sake of ships being procured, envoys came to him from a large section of the Morini to apologise (lit. to excuse themselves) for their policy in the previous season, because, (being) barbarian people and (thus) unacquainted with our way of life, they had made war upon the Roman people, and (to) promise that they would do those things which he should command. Caesar, thinking that this (overture) had occurred quite opportunely for him, because he neither wished  to have an enemy behind  his back, nor did he have the chance of war being waged on account of the time of year, and he did not consider that this business of such trivial matters should be preferred to (lit. should be set before) (his expedition) to Britain, orders them (to provide) a large number of hostages. These having been brought to (him), he receives them into his protection. About eighty transport ships having been collected and concentrated (lit. drawn together), which (amount) he considered would be enough for two legions to be transported, he assigned what war-ships he had in addition to his quaestor, his legates and his commanders. To this were added eighteen transport ships, which were detained by wind eight miles (lit. thousand paces) off from that place from being able to come to the same port: these he assigned to the cavalry. The rest of the army he gave to his legates Quintus Titurius Sabinus and Lucius Aurunculeius Cotta, to be led against the Menapii and against those cantons of the Morini, from whom no envoys had come to him; he ordered his legate Publius Sulpicius Rufus to hold the port with such a garrison as he considered would be sufficient.

Chapter 23.

These things having been arranged, (and) having obtained weather suitable for sailing, he weighed anchor (lit. loosed [his anchor]) at about the third watch, and ordered the cavalry to proceed to the further harbour and embark (lit. mount their ships) and follow him. Since (this) was carried out somewhat (lit. a little) tardily by them, he himself reached Britain with the first ships at about the fourth hour of the day, and there he beheld the forces of the enemy displayed in arms on all the hills. The nature of this place was such, and the sea was so hemmed in by steep cliffs, that a missile could be hurled from the higher ground on to the shore. Thinking this place by no means suitable for disembarking, he waited at anchor till the ninth hour, while the rest of the ships assembled there. In the meantime, the legates and military tribunes having been called together, he both pointed out what he had learned from Volusenus and what he wished to be done, and he warned, as the tactics of military matters (and) especially the affairs of the sea require, inasmuch as these things have a swift and uncertain movement, (that) all things should be performed by them at his nod and at once (lit. at the time). These having been dismissed (to their posts), (and) having obtained both a favourable wind and tide at the same (lit. the one) time, the signal having been given and his anchor having been weighed (lit. raised), advancing about seven miles (lit. thousand paces) from that place, he brought in his ships, the shore (being) open and level.

Chapter 24.

But the barbarians, the Romans' purpose having been understood, their cavalry and their charioteers, which kind (of warrior) they are accustomed to use in battles, having been sent forward, (and) following up with the rest of their forces, sought to prevent our (men) from disembarking from their ships. (In this) there was the greatest difficulty because of these reasons, (namely) that, on account of their size, our ships could not be grounded except in deep (water), while for our soldiers, the places (being) unknown (to them), with their hands encumbered (and) [having been oppressed] by the great and heavy burden of their armour, it was necessary at one and the same time both to leap down from the ships, and to stand firm in the waves, and to engage the enemy, whereas they, either from dry (ground) or advancing a little into the water, with their limbs free, (and) the places (being) well-known (to them), could hurl their missiles boldly and spur on their horses (which were) accustomed (to this). Dismayed by these circumstances, and altogether unskilled in this kind of  fighting, our (men) did not employ the same vigour and zeal, which they were accustomed to exert in battles on land.

Chapter 25.

When Caesar noticed this, he ordered the war-ships, the appearance of which was both rather strange to the barbarians and the movement (of which) was more ready to suit the occasion, to be withdrawn a little from the transport ships, and to be propelled by their oars and to be positioned alongside the enemy's exposed flank, and that the enemy should be driven off and dislodged from there; this plan was of great service to our (men). For the barbarians, disturbed by the shape of our ships and by the motion of our oars and also by the unfamiliar nature of our artillery-machines, halted and retreated (lit. carried back their feet), (if) only a little. And, with our soldiers hesitating, chiefly on account of the depth of the sea, (the man) who was carrying the eagle of the tenth legion, appealing to the gods that this action should turn out happily for the legion, said, "Jump down, soldiers, unless you wish to betray your eagle to the enemy: I, at any rate, shall have done my duty to the republic and to my commander." When he had said this with a loud voice, he threw himself forth from the ship.Then our (men), exhorting one another (lit. between themselves) that so great a disgrace should not be permitted, leapt down from the ship in one body. Likewise, when (the men) from the nearest ships saw them, following (them) up, they approached the enemy.

Chapter 26.

There was fierce fighting (lit. it was fought fiercely) on both sides. Our (men), however, as they could neither preserve their ranks nor get a firm foothold (lit. stand on [the ground] firmly) nor follow their standards, and, (as) one (man) from (one) ship (and another) from another attached himself to whatever standard he met, they were thrown into great disorder; but the enemy, all the shallows having been known (to them), when they saw from the shore some soldiers scattered and disembarking from a ship, their horses at the gallop (lit. having been spurred on), attacked (them while they were) encumbered, many surrounded a few, (and) others hurled  missiles at  the whole body (of our men) on their exposed flank. When Caesar noticed this, he ordered the skiffs of the war-ships (and) also the reconnaissance boats to be filled with soldiers, and, whomsoever he saw in distress, he sent help to them. Our (men), as soon as they were standing on dry (land), made a charge against the enemy, all their (comrades) following (them), and put them to flight, but they could not pursue (them) very far, because the cavalry had not been able to hold their course and make the island. This one thing was wanting to Caesar to complete his previous good fortune.

Chapter 27.

The enemy having been overcome, as soon as they had recovered (lit. withdrawn themselves) from their flight, at once sent envoys to Caesar to sue for (lit. [to talk] about) peace; they promised that (they) would give hostages and would do whatever he should require. Together with these envoys came Commius the Atrebatian, whom (as) I have shown above, (had been) sent ahead into Britain by Caesar. They had seized him (when) disembarking from his ship, although he was bearing Caesar's commissions in the capacity of an ambassador, and had thrown (him) into chains; then, the battle having taken place, they sent (him) back. With regard to the peace being sought, they cast the blame for that action upon the mass of the people, and asked that they might be pardoned on account of their ignorance. Caesar, having complained that, although, envoys having been sent to the continent voluntarily, they had sought peace from him, they had made war (upon him) without cause, said that he was pardoning their ignorance and that he required hostages; some of these they gave immediately, (and) they said that they would give the others in a few days (after they had been) summoned from more distant places. In the meantime, they ordered their (people) to move back to their fields, and chieftains began to assemble from all parts and to entrust themselves and their states to Caesar.

Chapter 28.  A storm upsets Caesar's plan.

Peace having been established by these measures, on the fourth day after their arrival (lit. it was arrived) in Britain, the eighteen ships, concerning which there has been an explanation (lit. it has been explained) above,    which had taken the cavalry on board, set sail (lit. loosed [their anchors]) from the upper port in a gentle breeze. When they were approaching Britain and could be (lit. were being) seen from the camp, so great a storm suddenly arose that not one (of them) could hold their course, but some were carried back to the same (place) from where they had set out, (while) others were driven down to the lower part of the island, which is nearer (to) the west (lit. the setting of the sun), with great danger to themselves; they, however, after they had dropped anchor (lit. their anchors having been dropped), when they began to be filled with waves, sailing out into the deep (sea) of necessity on a foul night, made for the continent.

Chapter 29.  Some ships destroyed.

On the same night it happened that there was a full moon, which day (of the month) is accustomed to produce very high sea tides in the ocean, and that was unknown to our (men). So, at one (and the same) time both the tide had filled the war-ships, in which Caesar had seen to his army being transported and which he had drawn up on to dry (land), and the storm was battering the transport (ships) which were riding at anchor (lit. which had been fastened to anchors), nor was any opportunity afforded our (men) either for managing or for helping (them). Several ships having been wrecked, since the remainder, their cables, their anchors and the rest of their tackle having been lost, were unfit for sailing, great consternation, a thing which was bound to happen, was caused throughout the whole army. For there were no other ships (available) so that they could be conveyed back by them, and all things which were of service for ships being repaired were lacking, and, because it was known to everyone that they were due to winter in Gaul, corn had not been provided in those places for the winter.

Chapter 30.  British chiefs take advantage of the confusion.

These things having been found out, the chieftains of Britain, who had gathered together at Caesar's (headquarters), conversing among themselves, since they were becoming aware that cavalry and ships and corn were wanting to the Romans, and were discovering the small number of our soldiers from the smallness of the camp, which was even more compact for this reason, because Caesar had conveyed the legions across without their baggage, thought that it was the best course of action (lit. the best thing in the doing), a rebellion having been made, to cut our (men) off from corn and supplies and to prolong the campaign into the winter, because they were confident that, them having been defeated, or their return having been prevented, no one would afterwards cross over into Britain. And so, a conspiracy having been formed once more, they began, little by little to depart from the camp and to draw in their (men) secretly from the fields.

Chapter 31.  Remedial action by Caesar. 

But, although he had not yet discovered their plans, yet both from the fate (lit. outcome) of his ships and from that (very fact) that they had stopped giving hostages, Caesar began to suspect that it would turn out (lit. be) as it (actually) happened. He therefore began to acquire the resources to meet all eventualities. For he both brought corn from the fields into the camp daily, and he used the timber and bronze of those ships which had been most seriously damaged for the purpose of the others being repaired, and he ordered (those things) which were of use for those (purposes) to be brought from the continent. And so, since the task (lit. it) was carried out by the soldiers with the greatest zeal, although twelve ships had been lost (lit. twelve ships having been lost), he brought it about that it was reasonably possible to sail in the rest (lit. for the rest to be sailed).

Chapter 32.  Ambushed in the field.

While these things were being done, one legion, which was called the Seventh, having been sent, as usual (lit. in accordance with custom) to gather corn, and no (lit. not any) suspicion of war having as yet (lit. at that time) arisen (lit. been interposed), since some of the people remained in the fields and others even kept returning from time to time to the camp, those who were on guard-duty in front of the gates of the camp reported to Caesar that a larger dust-cloud than usual (lit. than custom admitted of) could be seen in that direction into which area the legion had made its march. Caesar, suspecting what (lit. that which) was (happening), (namely) that something of a new plan had been adopted (lit. entered into) by the barbarians, ordered the cohorts which were at the guard-posts to set out with him in that direction, two of the remaining cohorts to take their place on guard, (and) the rest to be armed and to follow him closely at once. When he had advanced a little further from the camp, he noticed that his (men) were being hard-pressed by the enemy and were (only) holding their ground with difficulty, and that, the legion (being) closely packed, missiles were being hurled at (it) from all sides. For, because one area was left, all the corn from the other areas having been reaped, the enemy, suspecting that our (men) would be coming hither, had lain in wait in the woods during the night; then, attacking (them) suddenly (while they were) scattered, their arms having been put down, (and) occupied in reaping, a few having been killed, they had thrown the rest into confusion, their ranks having been broken, and at the same time had surrounded (them) with cavalry and chariots.

Chapter 33.  Chariot-fighting.

Their manner of fighting from their chariots is this. Firstly, they drive about in all directions, and hurl their missiles, and generally throw (the enemy's) ranks into confusion through the very dread of their horses and the noise of their wheels, and, when they have penetrated (lit. threaded themselves in between) the squadrons of cavalry, they jump down from their horses and fight on foot. Meanwhile, the charioteers gradually retire from the battle, and position their chariots in such a way, that, if the fighters (lit. they) are hard-pressed by the number of the enemy, they may have a ready retreat to their own (side). Thus, they display in battle the mobility of cavalry and the stability of infantry, and by daily practice and training they achieve so much that they are accustomed to check their galloping horses (lit. horses [which have been] spurred on) (even) in a sloping and steep location, and to guide and turn (them) in an instant (lit. in a short [time]), and (then) to run along the pole and stand on the yoke, and thence to return (lit. betake themselves) very quickly into their chariots.

Chapter 34.  A lull in the fighting.

Owing to these circumstances, to our (men who had been) thrown into confusion by the new form of fighting Caesar brought help at a most opportune time: for indeed upon his arrival, the enemy halted, (and) our (men)  recovered (lit. betook themselves) from their fear. This having been done, thinking that the time was disadvantageous for provoking (the enemy) and for battle being joined, he remained (lit. kept himself) on his own ground, and after a short time (lit. a short time having been allowed to pass) he led the legions back to the camp. While these things were being done, with all our (men) (being) busy (lit. having been occupied), the remaining (Britons), who were in the fields, departed. Storms followed for several successive days, such that they both confined our (men) to camp and prevented the enemy from fighting. Meanwhile, the barbarians sent out messengers to all parts, and proclaimed to their (people) the small number of our soldiers, and pointed out how great an opportunity was being given of booty being obtained and of themselves being liberated forever (lit. in perpetuity), if they should (only) have driven the Romans from their camp. By these means a large number of infantry and cavalry having been gathered speedily together, they came up to the camp.

Chapter 35.  The enemy routed.

Although Caesar saw that the same thing would occur (lit. would be) that had happened on previous days, (namely) that, if the enemy were driven back, they would escape danger due to their speed, yet, having obtained about thirty horsemen, whom Commius the Atrebatian, who has been mentioned (lit. concerning whom it has been told) before, had brought over with himself, he formed the legions in battle-formation before the camp. Battle having been joined, the enemy were not able to bear the onslaught of our soldiers for long, and fled (lit. turned their backs [in flight]). Pursuing them as far as their speed and strength would allow (lit. by as much ground as they could achieve by running and strength), (the Romans) slew several of them, (and) then, all the farm-buildings far and wide having been set on fire, they returned (lit. betook themselves) to camp.

Chapter 36.  Peace and return to Gaul.

On the same day envoys sent by the enemy came to Caesar to sue for (lit. [to talk] about) peace. (In reply) to them Caesar doubled the number of hostages which he had previously demanded, and ordered that they should be brought to the continent, because, with the day of the equinox (being) near, he did not consider, his ships (being) damaged, that his sailing should (lit. was fit to) be exposed (lit. subjected) to the winter. Obtaining suitable weather, he set sail (lit. untied his ships) himself a little after mid-night; all of these (ships) reached the continent intact; but, of these, two transport ships, which could not make the same ports which the others (did), were carried a little further down (the coast).

Chapter 37.

When about three hundred soldiers had been disembarked from these ships, and were marching to the camp, the Morini, whom Caesar, (when) setting out for Britain, had left pacified, induced by the hope of plunder, at first surrounded (them) with a not so very large number of their (men) and ordered (them), if they did not wish that they should be killed, to lay down their arms. When they, a circle having been formed, sought to defend themselves, about six thousand men assembled swiftly at a shout. This circumstance having been reported (to him), Caesar sent all the cavalry from the camp as help to his (men). In the meantime, our soldiers withstood the enemy's attack and fought most valiantly for more than four hours, and, with (only) a few wounds having been received (by them), slew several of them. But as soon as (lit. after) our cavalry came into sight, the enemy, their arms having been thrown down, fled (lit. turned their backs [in flight]) and a great number of them were killed.

Chapter 38.

On the following day, Caesar sent his legate Titus (Atius) Labienus with those legions which he had brought back from Britain against the Morini, who had made a rebellion. They, since they did not have (anywhere) in which they could retreat (lit. betake themselves) on account of the dry state of the marshes, which they had used (as) a place of refuge the previous year, almost all came into the power of Labienus. On the other hand, the legates Quintus Titurius (Sabinus) and Lucius (Aurunculeius) Cotta, who had led their legions into the territory of the Menapii, all their lands having been laid waste, their corn having been cut (and) their buildings having been burned, returned (lit. betook themselves) to Caesar because the Menapii had concealed themselves in their thickest woods. Caesar established the winter-quarters of all the legions in (the lands of) the Belgae. Thither only two states (lit. two states in all) sent hostages from Britain, (and) the rest omitted (to do this). These things having been achieved, on receipt of Caesar's despatches, a (public) thanksgiving of twenty days was decreed by the Senate.

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