Wednesday, 7 August 2013



Book Six is the last of the seven books of "The Gallic War" written by Caesar to be translated by Sabidius. (Book Eight was written by Aulus Hirtius shortly after Caesar's assassination in 44 B.C.). Book Six covers the events of the year 53 B.C. when Caesar was mainly engaged in stifling the embers of the rebellion led by the Eburones in the previous year, which had seen the destruction of the 5,000 strong force led by Sabinus and Cotta. Caesar had sworn to exact vengeance on the Eburones for what he considered to be their treachery, and indeed he inflicts a terrible punishment on them by inviting other tribes to devastate their territory (See Chapters 34-35 below.)

While the campaign details recorded in this book are perhaps less memorable than those in most of this work as a whole, the Book does contain, in the fashion of Herodotus, a long digression in Chapters 11-28 into the customs of the Gauls (Chapters 11-20) and of the Germans (Chapters 21-24), and Chapters 25-28 concern the mysteries of the so-called Hercynian Forest and its mythical beasts. Some scholars have considered these four chapters to be an interpolation. Most of the information contained in this long digression comes from books, maps or hearsay, with very little arising from Caesar' own personal observation, and much of the detail is both incredible and erroneous. However, Chapters 13 and 14 give some important information about the Druids, which together with some passages from Tacitus and Pliny the Elder, give us our main source material on these mysterious Celtic holy men. Caesar's precise purpose in supplying the information in these excursuses is not entirely clear, but the passages were evidently written for the entertainment and edification of his readers. The inhabitants of Rome were greatly excited by Caesar's more exotic adventures such as building a bridge across the Rhine (this he did twice, in 56 and in 53 B.C. - see Chapter 9 below) and his two expeditions to Britain in 55 and 54 B.C. and the details of the strange people and creatures contained in the digression in Book VI will have fascinated his readers and thereby increased the aura of his renown. 

The Latin text for this translation is that edited by T.Rice Holmes, Oxford Clarendon Press, 1914, as available on the website In his translation below, Sabidius has followed his by now usual practice of highlighting the main verbs and underlining ablative absolutes, which he renders in accordance with the original Latin construction. While this may lead to a somewhat cumbersome English, it will assist any student seeking to translate the Latin for himself. However, in relation to this book Sabidius does not generally seek to provide literal translations of the impersonal passive construction or the gerundive when this is used to denote necessity or obligation, since this would lead to English expressions verging on the incomprehensible; but where the gerundive is used as an attributive adjective to qualify a noun, effectively in lieu of a present participle passive, it is translated in such a way as to draw out its passive sense. Furthermore, where Caesar uses the historic present, as he does very frequently for the purpose of emphasis or vividness, Sabidius  retains the tense of the actual Latin. 

At the end of the translation of this book, Sabidius provides a list of the dates on which he has published the other books of Caesar's "De Bello Gallico". This will allow any follower of this blog to read these books in order if he wishes to do so.

Chapter 1.  Caesar increases his army by three legions.

Expecting a greater disturbance in Gaul for many reasons, Caesar arranged to hold a levy through the agency of his legates, Marcus (Junius) Silanus, Gaius Antistius Reginus (and) Titus Sextius. At the same time he requested the proconsul Gnaeus Pompeius (Magnus), since he was remaining near to the City with a command in the service of the Republic, (to) order (those men) whom he had enlisted to join the colours, and come to him, considering that it was of great importance, (for the present and) for the future as well, with regard to the thinking of Gaul, that the resources of Italy should seem so great that, if any loss should be received in war, this could not only be repaired in a short time, but (his force could) even be augmented by greater forces. When Pompeius had conceded this (loan) both (in the interests) of the Republic and to the (claims) of friendship, with the levy having been swiftly completed by his (officers), three legions having been formed and brought to (him), (and) the number of those cohorts which he had lost with Quintus Titurius (Sabinus) having been doubled, he taught (the Gauls) both by his dispatch and by (the size of) his forces what the Roman people could accomplish through their discipline and resources.

Chapter 2.  Caesar calculates why he needs to prepare for war. 

Indutiomarus having been slain, as we have stated, the ruling power is offered to his kinsmen by the Treviri. They do not cease to incite the neighbouring Germans and to promise (them) money. When they cannot obtain (their object) from those nearest (to them), they try those further away. Some states having been found (to meet their wishes), they confirm (the engagement) between them by an oath and give security for the money by hostages: they attach Ambiorix to themselves by an alliance and a covenant. These actions having been ascertained (by him), Caesar, since he saw that war was being prepared everywhere, that the Nervii, the Aduatuci and the Menapii, with all the Germans on this side of the Rhine having been attached (to them), were under arms, that the Senones were not coming to him at his command, (and) that the Germans were being incited by the Treviri in frequent embassies, thought that he ought to take measures for war (lit. that it was necessary that measures for war should be taken by him) earlier (than usual).

Chapter 3.  Caesar takes early action to suppress rebellion. 

Accordingly, with the winter having not yet ended, the four nearest legions having been collected together, he marched unexpectedly into the territories of the Nervii, and, before they could either assemble or escape, with a large number of cattle and men having been captured and that booty having been granted to the soldiers, and their lands having been ravaged, he compelled them to come to a surrender and to give him hostages. That business having been speedily effected, he led the legions back into wither quarters again. A council of Gaul having been proclaimed at the beginning of spring, as he had arranged (before), when, with the exception of the Senones, the Carnutes and the Treviri, the rest had come, judging this to be the commencement of war and rebellion, he transfers the council to Lutetia of the Parisii (i.e. Paris), in order that it might appear that he was subordinating everything (else). These were neighbours to the Senones and had united their state (to them) in the memory of their fathers, but were thought to have kept aloof from this plot. This decision having been proclaimed from the tribunal, he sets out on the same day towards the Senones with his legions on the same day, and arrives thither by forced marches.

Chapter 4.  Both the Senones and the Carnutes surrender to Caesar. 

His arrival having been discovered, Acco, who had been the leader in this plot, orders his people to assemble in their strongholds. (With them) trying (to do this), it is reported that Caesar is at hand before it can be accomplished. Of necessity they abandon their intention and send ambassadors to Caesar, beseeching his (clemency): they approach (him) by means of the Aedui, under the protection of whom their state was of old. With the Aedui requesting (it), Caesar readily grants (them) pardon and accepts their pleas, because he considered that summer (was) the time for impending war, not for an investigation. A hundred hostages having been requisitioned, he delivers these to the Aedui to be held in custody. The Carnutes send ambassadors and hostages to the same place, employing the Remi, under the protection of whom they were, (as) their intercessors: they elicit the same answers. Caesar concludes the council and levies cavalry on the states.

Chapter 5.  Caesar proceeds against the Menapii.

This part of Gaul having been pacified, he wholly applied himself, both in heart and mind, to the war with the Treviri and Ambiorix. He orders Cavarinus, (together) with the cavalry of the Senones to march with himself, lest any disturbance should emerge from his anger or from that hatred in the state which he had earned. These matters having been arranged, as he considered (it) certain that Ambiorix would not contend with him in battle, he began to contemplate in his mind his other intentions. The Menapii were close to the borders of the Eburones, having been protected by continuous marshes and woods, (being people) who alone in Gaul had never sent ambassadors to Caesar on the subject of peace. He knew that there was a friendship to Ambiorix amongst them; likewise he had learned that (he) had entered into alliance with the Germans through the agency of the Treviri. He thought that these auxiliaries ought (lit. were needing) to be detached from him before he provoked him to war, lest, his security having been despaired of, he should conceal himself amongst the Menapii or be compelled to form an alliance with those (tribes) living across the Rhine. This plan having been entered into, he sends the baggage of the whole army to (Titus Atius) Labienus in (the territories of) the Treviri and orders two legions to march to him; he himself with five legions in light order proceeds against the Menapii. They, no force having been assembled, (but) relying on the protection of their ground, flee into the woods and marshes and convey their property thither.

Chapter 6.  The Menapii are quickly subdued.  

Caesar, his forces having been divided with his legate Gaius Fabius (Maximus) and his quaestor Marcus (Licinius) Crassus, and bridges having been speedily constructed, enters (their lands) in three columns, burns buildings and villages (and) takes possession of a large number of cattle and men. Constrained by these actions, the Menapii send ambassadors to him to sue for peace (lit. for the sake of peace being sought). Their hostages having been received, he assures (them) that he would consider (them) in the number of his enemies, if they should receive either Ambiorix or his envoys within their territories. These matters having been settled, he leaves Commius the Atrebatian with some cavalry amongst the Menapii in the position of a guard; he himself proceeds against the Treviri.

Chapter 7.  By feigning fear, Labienus seeks to tempt the Treviri into an engagement. 

While these things are being undertaken by Caesar, the Treviri, large forces of infantry and cavalry having been assembled, were preparing to attack Labienus with the one legion which had wintered in their territories. And already they were no further away from him than a two-day journey when they learn that two legions had arrived by Caesar's despatch. Their camp having been pitched fifteen miles away, they decided to await the reinforcements of the Germans. The enemy's intention having been ascertained, Labienus, hoping that through their rashness there would be some opportunity of engaging (them), a guard of five cohorts for the baggage having been left, advances against the enemy with twenty-five cohorts and a large (contingent of) cavalry, and, with an interval of a mile intervening, fortifies his camp. Between Labienus and the enemy there was a river, difficult to cross and with steep banks. He neither had (it) in mind to cross this himself nor did he imagine that the enemy would cross (it). Their expectation of reinforcements was daily increasing. He openly states in a council that, since the Germans are said to be approaching, he would not endanger his own and the army's fortunes and that he would strike camp at dawn the next day. These (words) are conveyed to the enemy, as out of (so) great a number of Gallic horsemen nature compelled some to favour the interests of the Gauls. The military tribunes and senior centurions having been assembled at night, Labienus declares what his plan is, and, so that he may the more easily give the enemy a suspicion of his fear, he orders the camp to be struck with more noise and commotion than the custom of the Roman people demonstrates. By these means he makes his departure (seem) like a flight. These things also are reported to the enemy by scouts before dawn in the circumstances of the very great proximity of the camps.

Chapter 8.  Labienus routs the Treviri, who then return to their allegiance.

The rear of the column had scarcely proceeded outside of the fortifications when the Gauls, encouraging one another not to let slip from their hands the expected booty - (they said) it would be tedious, with the Romans being panic-stricken, to await the assistance of the Germans, nor (would) their dignity allow (them) not to venture to attack with such great forces so small a band, especially (when it was) retreating and encumbered - do not hesitate to cross the river and join battle on unfavourable ground. Suspecting that these things would happen, Labienus was quietly proceeding, using the same pretence of a march to entice (them) all to his side of the river. Then, the baggage having been sent forward and positioned on some eminence, he says: "Soldiers, you have the chance which you have sought: you have the enemy in an awkward and unfavourable position: display to (us) your leaders the valour which you have so often shown to your commander-in-chief (i.e. Caesar), and imagine that he is present and is seeing these (exploits) in person." At the same time he orders the standards to be turned towards the enemy and the battle-line to be formed, and, a few troops (of cavalry) having been detached as a guard for the baggage, he deploys the rest of the cavalry on the flanks. Our men, a shout having quickly been raised, hurl their javelins at the enemy. They, when contrary to their expectations they saw (those) whom they believed to be retreating coming towards them with hostile standards, were not able even to withstand the attack, and, having been thrown into flight at the first charge, sought the woods. Pursuing them with the cavalry, Labienus, a large number having been slain, and several having been captured, recovered the state (to its allegiance) a few days afterwards. For the Germans, who were coming to their assistance, the flight of the Treviri having been ascertained, betook themselves homewards. With them the kinsmen of Indutiomarus, who had been the instigators of the rebellion, departed from the state in their company. To Cingetorix, whom we have shown to have remained firm in his allegiance from the beginning, the chieftaincy and the supreme power were delivered.

Chapter 9.  For the second time Caesar builds a bridge over the Rhine and leads his troops across. 

Caesar, after he had come from (the territories of) the Menapii into (those of) the Treviri, decided to cross the Rhine for two reasons; one of these was because they had sent assistance against him to the Treviri, (and) the second, in order that Ambiorix should not have a refuge amongst them. These matters having been determined, he began to construct a bridge a little above that place where he had led his army across previously. The design having been known and approved, the work is undertaken in a few days through the zeal of the soldiers. A strong guard having been left at the bridge, lest any disturbance should be suddenly stirred up by them, he takes the rest of his forces and the cavalry across. The Ubii, who had given him hostages and had come to a submission before, send ambassadors to him to vindicate themselves (lit. for the purpose of themselves being vindicated), (and) to inform (him) that auxiliaries had not been sent to the Treviri by their state, and that their allegiance had not been been violated by themselves: they beg and entreat (him) to spare them, lest in his general hatred of the Germans the innocent should pay penalties in place of the guilty; the case having been investigated, Caesar finds that the auxiliaries have been sent by the Suebi; he accepts the pleas of the Ubii, (and) searches for approaches and routes into (the territories of) the Suebi.

Chapter 10.  The Suebi retreat into the depths of their territories. 

In the meantime, he is informed by the Ubii a few days afterwards that the Suebi are congregating all their forces in one place, and are ordering those tribes which are under their sway to send reinforcements of infantry and cavalry. These things having been ascertained, he provides a supply of corn, (and) selects a suitable place for his camp; he commands the Ubii to bring in their cattle and convey all their (possessions) from the fields into their strongholds, hoping that such barbarous and untrained people, having been constrained by a want of provisions, can be induced to (accept) conditions for battle; he instructs (them) to send numerous scouts into (the territories of) the Suebi and find out what things are being done among them. They carry out these orders, and, a few days having elapsed, they report back: (they say) that all the Suebi, after definite accounts of the army of the Romans had come (to them), had retreated with all their forces and (those) of their allies into the utmost extremities of their territories: (they add) that there was a forest there of very great size, which is called the Bacenis; that it stretches a long way into the interior, and, having been interposed as a natural wall, defends from raids and incursions the Cherusci from the Suebi and the Suebi from the Cherusci: (and) that at the entrance to the forest the Suebi had resolved to await the coming of the Romans.

Chapter 11.  The Gallic states are divided into factions.

Since we have (lit. it has been) arrived at this point, it does not seem out of place to set forth (an account) of Gaul and Germany and in what (way) these nations differ from each other. In Gaul there are factions, not only in every state and in all the cantons and districts, but almost in each household as well, and the leaders of these factions are (those) who are considered, in accordance with their judgment, to have the greatest influence, (and) to whose will and judgment the supreme (issue) of all affairs and policies is referred (lit. goes back). And so the reason for this custom seems to have been instituted in ancient times, (namely) that no one of the common people should be in want of support against the powerful: for not one (of these leaders) allows his (followers) to be oppressed and defrauded, and, if he does otherwise, he does not possess any authority among his own (men). This same principle exists in general throughout the whole of Gaul: for all the states are divided into two factions.

Chapter 12.  With Caesar's help, the Aedui recover their position as the premier tribe in Gaul.

When Caesar came to Gaul, the leaders of one faction were the Aedui, (the leaders) of the other the Sequani. Since the latter were less powerful by themselves as the chief influence was of old among the Aedui and (the number) of their clients was great, they had allied the Germans and Ariovistus to themselves and had brought them over to their (side) by great sacrifices and promises. Indeed, several successful battles having been fought and all the nobility of the Aedui having been slain, they had so much surpassed (them) in power that they brought over from the Aedui to themselves a large part of their clients and received from them (i.e. the Aedui) the sons of their leading men (as) hostages and compelled (them) to swear publicly that they would not enter into any plot against the Sequani, and they occupied a large part of the neighbouring land (which they had) seized by force and obtained the chieftaincy of the whole of Gaul. Induced by this exigency, Divitiacus, having journeyed to Rome to the Senate, had returned, his business unfinished. A change of circumstances having happened on Caesar's arrival, with the hostages having been returned to the Aedui, their former clients having been restored (and) new (ones) acquired through Caesar, because those who had attached themselves to their alliance saw that they had enjoyed better conditions and a fairer rule, (and) with their influence and their reputation having been enhanced in other respects, the Sequani lost the chieftaincy. The Remi succeeded in their place: because it was understood that they were equal in favour with Caesar, those, who, on account of their old animosities, could in no way ally with the Aedui, devoted themselves to the Remi in clientship. They carefully protected them: thus they possessed an influence both newly and suddenly acquired. The situation was then in that state that the Aedui were considered by far the leading people, (and) the Remi held the second position of importance.

Chapter 13.  The powers and customs of the Druids.

In all of Gaul there are two classes of men, who are of some rank and dignity. For the common people are held almost in the position of slaves, who venture nothing by themselves and are not summoned to any council. The majority (of them), whenever they are pressed either by debt or the size of the tribute or by the wrongdoing of the powerful, commit themselves in servitude to the nobles: there are the same rights over them as masters (have) over slaves. But of these two classes one is (that of) the Druids, the other (that) of the knights. The former are concerned with sacred matters, conduct public and private sacrifices, (and) interpret religious questions: a large number of young men flock to them for the sake of instruction, and they are (held) in great esteem among them. For they determine almost all of the public and private disputes, and, if any crime has been committed, if a murder (has been) done, if there is a dispute about an inheritance or about boundaries, the same people decide (it), (and) determine the rewards and punishments; if anyone, either (in) a public or private (capacity) does not abide by their decision, they ban (him) from the sacrifices. This is the heaviest punishment among them. Those who have been so interdicted (lit. to whom it has been so interdicted) are considered (to be) in the ranks of the impious and the criminal, all men shun them (and) avoid their approach and their conversation, lest they receive some evil from contact (with them), nor is justice given to them if they seek (it) nor is any honour bestowed (on them). Over all these Druids, one man presides and he possesses supreme authority among them. Upon his death, either if anyone is pre-eminent among them in dignity he succeeds, or, if there are many of equal (standing), they contend for the primacy by a vote of the Druids, (and) sometimes even with arms. They assemble at a fixed time of year at a consecrated place in the territories of the Carnutes, which is reckoned (to be) the central region in the whole of Gaul. Hither all who have disputes gather from every direction, (and) submit to their decisions and judgments. Their rule of life is supposed to have been discovered in Britain and to have been transferred thence to Gaul, and now (those), who wish to understand this subject more thoroughly, generally proceed thither for the purpose of studying (it).  

Chapter 14.  The Druids' educational system.

The Druids are accustomed to hold aloof from war, nor do they pay taxes together with the rest; they have exemption from military service and immunity from all liabilities. Induced by such great rewards, many both come to this way of life and are sent by their parents and relatives. There they are said to learn by heart a great number of verses. Therefore, some remain in training for twenty years. Nor do they think that it is proper to commit these (words) to writing, although in almost (all) other matters, in their public and private transactions, they employ Greek letters. They seem to me to have adopted that (practice) for two reasons, because they neither wish their way of life to be divulged to common people, nor (do they wish) that those who learn (by) trusting to written words should pay less attention to the memory;  it does generally occur to most men that with the assistance of writing they relax their diligence in learning by heart and (the use of) the memory. They especially wish to persuade (people) of this, that souls do not perish, but transfer after death from one body to another, and that by means of this (belief) (men) are particularly aroused to valour, the fear of death having been disregarded. Besides (this), they discuss and hand down to the youth many things concerning the stars and their motion, concerning the size of the universe and of the world, concerning the nature of things and concerning the strength and power of the immortal gods.

Chapter 15.  The Gallic order of knights.

The other order is (that) of the knights. These, whenever there is occasion and any war occurs ([something] which before Caesar's arrival was generally wont to happen annually, as they were either inflicting injuries or repulsing [those who had been] inflicting [injuries upon them], are all engaged in warfare, and, as each of them is the more powerful by birth and in resources, so the greater number of vassals and dependants he has around him. They acknowledge (only) this one (form of) influence and power.

Chapter 16.  The Gauls' practice of human sacrifice. 

The whole nation of the Gauls is very devoted to religious observances, and for that reason (those) who are smitten with the more serious illnesses and (those) who are engaged in battles and dangers either sacrifice men as victims or vow that they will sacrifice (them), and employ Druids as the ministers for these sacrifices, because they believe that, unless the life of a man is given up in return for the life of a man, the will of the immortal gods cannot be propitiated, and they hold established sacrifices of the same kind for the purposes of the state. Some have figures of immense size, the bodies (lit. limbs) of which, having been woven out of twigs, they fill with living men; these (figures) having been set on fire, the trapped men perish in the flames. They believe that the execution of those who have been caught in theft or robbery of some (other) crime are more pleasing to the immortal gods; but, whenever the supply of this kind is wanting, they resort to the execution even of the innocent.

Chapter 17.  How the Gauls honour the gods.

They worship (as) their god Mercury in particular. There are numerous images of him: they consider him (as) the inventor of all the arts, (they regard) him (as) the guide for their journeys and marches, (and) they deem him to have the greatest influence for the making of money and (for) commercial transactions. After him (they worship) Apollo and Mars and Jupiter and Minerva. With regard to these (deities) they have generally the same view as other nations: that Apollo wards off diseases, that Minerva imparts the basic elements of arts and crafts, that Jupiter holds sway over the gods, and that Mars controls war. To the latter, when they have decided to engage in battle, they usually dedicate those things which they will take in war: when they are victorious, they sacrifice any captured animals and gather together the rest of the plunder into one place. In many states you may (lit. it is permitted to) see piles of these things heaped up in consecrated spots; nor does it often happen that someone, religious scruples having been disregarded, dares to conceal in his house things (which have been) captured or to remove things (which have been) deposited, and the most grievous punishment (together) with torture is ordained for such a deed.

Chapter 18.  Other unusual customs of the Gauls. 

The Gauls declare that they (are) all descended from Father Dis, and they say that this (is) handed down by the Druids. For that reason they calculate every period of time by the number, not of days, but of nights; they observe birthdays and the beginnings of months and years in such a manner that day follows night. Among the other usages of life they differ generally from other (nations) in this (respect), that they do not allow their sons to approach them openly until they have grown up sufficiently that they can bear the burden of military service, and they consider (it) shameful that a son of boyish age should stand in public in the presence of his father.

Chapter 19.  Gallic customs relation to dowries and funerals. 

As much money as husbands have received from their wives in the name of a dowry, an estimate (of it) having been made, they place a similar amount from their own estate with these dowries. An account of all this money is kept conjointly and any profits are saved: whichever of them survives (the other) in life, the portion of both comes to that person (together) with the profits of previous times. Husbands have the power of life and death over their wives as (they have) over their children; and, whenever the father of a family, born in an illustrious rank, has died, his relatives come together, and, if the circumstances come under suspicion, they hold an investigation of the wives in the manner relating to slaves (i.e. they torture them), and, if (foul play) is discovered, they are put to death, having been tortured by fire and every (kind of) torment. Their funerals are, in relation to the civilisation of the Gauls, are grand and extravagant; and they cast into the fire everything, even animals, which they think were dear to (the departed when) alive, and (but) a short time before this present age slaves and dependants, whom it was known were beloved by them, were burned, the formal funeral rites having been completed.

Chapter 20.  The Gauls are expected to treat matters of public concern confidentially. 

Those states, which are considered to conduct their public business more judiciously, have (it) prescribed by law that, if anyone hears anything about public matters from his neighbours by rumour or by report, he shall bring (it) to a magistrate and not share (it) with anyone else, because it has been discovered that rash and inexperienced men were often alarmed by false rumours and driven to crime or to take decisions concerning the most important matters. Magistrates conceal (those things) which it seems proper (to them to be concealed) and reveal (those things) which they have judged to be of service to the people. To speak about public affairs is not allowed, except by means of an assembly.

Chapter 21.  Different social customs of the Germans.

The Germans differ considerably from this way of living. For they neither have Druids to preside over divine matters, nor do they give their attention to sacrifices. They reckon among the number of the gods only those whom they see and by whose offices they are obviously helped, (that is) the Sun, the Fire-God  and the Moon, and they have not heard of the others even by report. Their whole life consists of hunting and of the pursuits of the military art: from childhood they devote themselves to toil and hardship. (Those) who have remained chaste for the longest time win the greatest praise among their own (people): through this some think that stature, others that strength and sinews, are reinforced. Indeed, to have had (carnal) knowledge of a woman before one's twentieth year they consider amongst the most shameful acts; (but) there is no secrecy in relation to this matter, because they both bathe promiscuously in the river and (only) use hides and small coverings of deer-skin, a large part of the body (remaining) bare.

Chapter 22.  Their practice of land allocation.

They do not pay (much) attention to agriculture, and a large part of their diet consists of milk, cheese and meat. Nor has anyone a fixed quantity of land or estates of his own; but the magistrates and leading men assign every year to the tribes and families of men who have assembled together as much land and in such place (as) seems good  (to them), and compel (them) to transfer to (somewhere) else the year after. For this practice they put forward many reasons: lest, captivated by continuous familiarity, they may exchange their zeal for waging war (lit. for war being waged) for agriculture; lest they may be keen to obtain extensive estates, and drive the humbler (sort) from their holdings; lest they may build houses with too much care for the avoidance of cold and heat (lit. for the purpose of cold and heat being avoided); lest any desire for money should arise, from which cause divisions and dissensions should spring; (and) so that they may keep the common people in a contented state of mind, when each man sees his own resources to be equated with (those of) the most powerful.

Chapter 23.  The values and customs of the Germans. 

To the states it is the greatest distinction, their borders having been laid waste, to have wildernesses as widely as possible around them. They consider this a particular (sign) of their valour, that their neighbours are driven from their lands and abandon (them) (lit. having been driven from their lands, abandon [them]), and that no one dares to settle near (them); at the same time they think that they shall be for this (reason) the more secure, the fear of a sudden incursion having been removed. Whenever a state either resists a war having been waged (against it), or wages (war itself), magistrates are chosen to preside over that war, such that they have the power of life and death. In peacetime, there is no common magistrate, but the leading men of districts and cantons deliver justice and settle disputes among their own (people). Robberies which occur beyond the boundaries of each state have no stigma, and they avow that these are committed for the sake of the youth being kept busy and sloth being reduced. And, whenever one of their chiefs has said in a public assembly that he would be their leader, (and) "let (them) who wish to follow (me), declare (it)," those who approve both the cause and the man arise and promise their assistance, and are applauded by the people. Anyone of them who has not followed is reckoned a deserter and a traitor, and in everything afterwards trust is denied to him. They do not consider (it) right to injure a guest; they protect from harm any people who have come to them for whatever reason and consider (them) inviolable, and the houses of all are open to them, and their food is shared (with them).

Chapter 24.  The Gauls are gradually overtaken by the Germans in respect of valour. 

Now there was formerly a time, when the Gauls exceeded the Germans in valour, (and) waged war (upon them) of their own accord, (and), on account of the great number of their people and the lack of land, they sent colonies across the Rhine. Accordingly, the Volscae Tectosages seized those places, which were the most fertile in Germany, around the Hercynian Forest, which, I am aware, was known to Eratosthenes and some (other) Greeks, (and) which they called the Orcynian (Forest), and there they settled; this tribe maintains itself to this day in these settlements, and possesses the highest reputation for justice and military merit. Now, because they abide in the same scarcity, poverty (and) hardihood as the Germans, they use the same food and dress; but the proximity of our provinces and familiarity with overseas commodities bestows upon the Gauls many things (tending) towards luxury as well as need, (and), having been gradually accustomed to being worsted, and having been defeated in many battles, they do not even compare themselves with them (i.e. the Germans) in valour.

Chapter 25.  The mysteries of the Hercynian Forest.

The breadth of this Hercynian Forest, which has been mentioned above, extends to a journey of nine days for an unencumbered (person): for it cannot otherwise be determined, nor have they learned the measurements of journeys. It begins at the borders of the Helvetii and the Nemetii and the Rauraci, and extends in a straight line along the River Danube to the borders of the Daci and the Anartes; thence it bends leftwards in a different direction from the river, and, on account of its extent, touches the borders of many nations; nor is there anyone from this (part) of Germany who says that he has either gone to the end of that forest, although he has travelled a journey of sixty days, or has heard in what place it begins. And it is known that many kinds of wild beasts, which are not seen in other places, are born in it; of these the following are such as differ especially from other (animals) and seem worthy to be handed down to posterity.

Chapter 26.  The appearance of the reindeer.

There is an ox in the shape of a stag, from the middle of whose forehead (and) between the ears a single horn stands forth, taller and more straight than such as are known to us: from its top they are spread out widely like branching antlers (lit. like hand-palms and trees). The shape of the female and the male is the same, the shape and size of their horns (is) the same.

Chapter 27.  Elks and their strange habit of leaning against trees to rest. 

There are also (animals) which are called elks. Their shape and the varied (colour) of their skins are much like goats, but their size surpasses (them) a little and they are stunted in respect of their horns and have legs without any ligatures and joints, nor do they lie down for the sake of rest, nor, if they have been distressed due to some accident and collapse (lit. if, having been distressed due to some accident, they collapse) can they raise or lift themselves up. Trees are in place of beds to them: they lean themselves against them and, having reclined only a little, they take their rest. When it has been noticed by the huntsmen from their footmarks whither they are accustomed to betake themselves, they either undermine all the trees by their roots at that spot, or they cut into (them) so far that (only) the perfect appearance of them standing is left. When they have supported themselves upon them in accordance with their custom, they throw down the weakened trees by their weight and fall down themselves together (with them).

Chapter 28.  Aurochs and their capture.

There is a third species (consisting) of those (animals) which are called aurochs. These are a little below elephants in size, with the appearance and colour and shape of a bull. Their strength is great and their speed (is) great, and they spare neither any man nor any wild beast which they have caught sight of. These, having been caught in pits, they eagerly kill. Their young men harden themselves by such work, and train (themselves) in this kind of hunting, and (those) who have killed the greatest (number) of them, their horns having been brought to a public (place) to serve as evidence, win great renown. But not even (when) caught very young, can they be accustomed to men and tamed. The size and shape and appearance of their horns differs greatly from the horns of our oxen. These, having been zealously collected, they encase with silver at the rims, and use in their most sumptuous banquets.

Chapter 29.  Caesar sets out against Ambiorix. 

After he learns by means of Ubian scouts that the Suevi have retired into their woods, Caesar, fearing a scarcity of corn, because, as we have mentioned above, all Germans pay very little attention to agriculture, decides not to advance any further; (but) so that he might not altogether lift from the barbarians the fear of his return, and so that he might delay their reinforcements, the army having been led back, breaks down the further section of the bridge, which touched the banks of the Ubii, to the length of two hundred feet, and at the end of the bridge builds a tower of four stories and stations a garrison of twelve cohorts for the sake of the bridge being protected, and strengthens that position with great fortifications. He himself, when the corn begins to ripen, having set out for war with Ambiorix through the forest of the Ardennes, which is the largest in the whole of Gaul and stretches from the banks of the Rhine and the territories of the Treviri to (those of) the Nervii and extends in length for more than five hundred miles, sends forward Lucius Minucius Basilus with all the cavalry, (to see) whether he can profit in any (way) through speed of march and the advantage of time; he warns (him) to prohibit fires being made in the camp, lest any indication of his approach be given from afar: he says that he will follow immediately.

Chapter 30.  Basilus nearly surprises and almost captures Ambiorix.

Basilus does as he was commanded. The march having been completed speedily, contrary to everyone's expectation, he catches many persons in the fields off their guard: through their information he marches towards Ambiorix himself in the place where he was said to be with a few horsemen. Fortune is most powerful both in all matters and in military (affairs in particular). For, just as it happened by a remarkable chance that he fell upon (the man) himself off-guard even and unprepared and that his arrival was seen by everyone before a report or message (about it) was brought (to him), so it was by means of extraordinary good fortune that, with every (piece of) his military (equipment) which he had around himself having been seized, and his chariots and horses having been captured, that he escaped death. But it happened owing to this (circumstance), that, his house having been surrounded by a wood, as the dwellings of the Gauls generally are, (as) they, for the sake of heat being avoided, mostly seek the neighbourhood of woods and rivers, his retainers and friends withheld the attack of our cavalry for a short time in this confined spot. While they were fighting (lit. with them fighting), one of his (men) set him on a horse: the woods concealed the fleeing (man). Thus fortune prevailed greatly both with regard to danger being encountered and with regard to (it) being evaded. 

Chapter 31.  The Eburones flee from the Romans and Catuvolcus kills himself. 

It is doubtful (whether) Ambiorix did not assemble his forces by design, because he did not think that he should engage in a battle, or (whether he was) bebarred by time and (was) prevented by the sudden arrival of our cavalry, when he believed that the rest of our army was following closely. But certainly, messengers having been despatched through the countryside, he ordered that each (person) should take care of himself. Some of them fled into the Forest of the Ardennes, others into the extensive marshes; (those) who were nearest to the Ocean hid themselves in such islands as the tides are accustomed to form; many, departing from their territories, entrusted themselves to complete strangers. Catuvolcus, king of a half part of the Eburones, who had entered into the plan together with Ambiorix, now broken down by age, since he could not endure the toil either of war or of flight, cursing Ambiorix with every formal imprecation, because he had been the deviser of that plan, killed himself by (a concoction of) the yew-tree, of which there is a large supply in Gaul and Germany.

Chapter 32.   Caesar accepts the pleas of the Segni and Condrusi that they had not been involved in Ambiorix's plot, and appoints Quintus Cicero to command the legion which was to guard the army's baggage.

The Segni and Condrusi, of the nation and number of the Germans, (and) who are between the Eburones and the Treviri, sent ambassadors to Caesar to entreat (him) not to regard them in the number of his enemies nor to consider that the case of all the Germans who were on this side of the Rhine was one (and the same): (they pleaded) that they had made no plans of war at all, and had sent no auxiliaries to Ambiorix. Caesar, the matter having been investigated by an examination of his prisoners, ordered that, if any of the Eburones should have repaired to them in their fight, they should be sent back to him; (and) he said that, if they acted thus, he would not damage their territories. Then, his forces having been divided into three parts, he conveyed the baggage of all the legions to Aduatuca. That is the name of a fort. This is almost in the middle of the territories of the Eburones, where Titurius  and (Lucius) Aurunculeius (Cotta) had taken up position for the purpose of wintering. He approved this place both for other reasons and, because its fortifications remained intact from the previous year, in order that he might relieve the toil of the soldiers. He left the fourteenth legion, one of those three, which, having been recently enrolled, he had brought over from Italy, as a guard for the baggage. He places Quintus Tullius Cicero in command over that legion and camp, and assigns (him) two hundred horsemen.

Chapter 33.  Caesar gives instructions to Labienus and Trebonius. 

The army having been divided,  he orders Titus Labienus and Gaius Trebonius to proceed with three legions in the direction of those districts which border on (the territories of) the Menapii. He sends Gaius Trebonius with an equal number of legions with the purpose of that district which lies adjacent to (the territories of) the Aduatuci being ravaged; he himself determines to go with the remaining three (legions) to the river Scheldt, which flows into the Meuse and the the remotest parts of the Ardennes, whither he heard that Ambiorix (had) gone with a few horsemen. (On) departing, he guarantees that he will return after the seventh day; at that time he was aware that corn was due to that legion which was being left in the garrison. He urges Labienus and Trebonius to return on that (same) day, if they could do (so) to the advantage of the republic, so that, their plans having been shared together and the tactics of the enemy having been examined, they could take a different approach to the war.

Chapter 34.  Caesar plans to take a terrible revenge on the Eburones.

There was, as we have observed above, no definite body of men, no stronghold, (and) no garrison, which was capable of defending itself by arms, but the people (were) scattered in all directions. In the case of each man, he takes position where either a hidden valley or a wooded location or an entangled morass offered some hope of protection or safety. These places were known to their neighbourhoods, and the matter demanded great attention, not with regard to the whole (body) of the army being protected [for no danger could occur to men (gathered) in one body from frightened and scattered (men)], but in relation to individual soldiers being preserved; however, this consideration tended to (some) degree to the safety of the army. For both the passion for plunder was likely to draw many men too far (afield), and the woods, with their uncertain and hidden routes, prevented (them) from going in groups (lit. gathered together). If he wanted the business to be completed and the race and name of those wicked people to be cut down, more bands of men (were) needing to be sent out, and more soldiers were needing to be detached; if he wished to keep the companies with their standards, as the established tactic and custom of the Roman army required, this very situation served as a protection to the barbarians, nor was there wanting to individuals the daring of laying ambushes in secret and of surrounding scattered (detachments). (Considering) that (they were) in such difficulties, as much care as could be taken was taken, so that some (opportunity) with regard to injuring (the enemy) was forgone, although the minds of all were burning for revenge being taken, rather than that harm should be done (to the enemy) with some loss to our soldiers. Caesar despatches messengers to the neighbouring states: he summons all (of them) to him in the hope of booty for the purpose of the Eburones being plundered, in order that the life of the Gauls might be put at hazard in the woods rather than a legionary soldier, (and) at the same time in order that, with (so) great a multitude having been drawn about (them), the race and name of that state might be annihilated in return for such a crime. A large number speedily assembles from all quarters.

Chapter 35.  The Sugambri cross the Rhine to join in the plunder of the Eburones. 

These things were being done in every part (of the territories of) the Eburones, and the seventh day was approaching, on which day Caesar had resolved to return to the baggage and the legion. Here it could be learned how much fortune can achieve in warfare and what great chances she brings. The enemy having been scattered and alarmed, as we have related, there was no body of men that could produce even a small occasion for fear. The report reaches across the Rhine that the Eburones are being pillaged and that all were being summoned to plunder freely. The Sugambri, who are nearest to the Rhine, by whom, as we have mentioned above, the Tencteri and the Usipetes were received after their flight, collect two thousand horsemen. They cross the Rhine in boats and rafts thirty miles below that spot where the bridge (had been) built and a garrison (had been) left by Caesar: they come to the frontiers of the territories of the Eburones; they catch many (who had been) scattered in flight, (and) take possession of a large amount of cattle, of which barbarians are most covetous. Tempted by booty, they advance further. Neither morass nor forests check these men, (who have been) born amid war and depredations. They inquire of their prisoners in what location Caesar is; they discover that (he has) gone on further and learn that his entire army has departed. Then one of their prisoners says, "Why do you pursue such wretched and trifling plunder, (you) who can now (lit. [you] to whom it is now permitted to) be most fortunate? In three hours you can come to Aduatuca: here the army of the Romans has collected all its belongings: there is so feeble a garrison that not even a wall can be manned (lit. be surrounded [with defenders]), nor does anyone dare to go outside the fortifications." Hope having been offered (to them), the Germans leave the plunder, which they have obtained, in a secret (place); they themselves hasten to Aduatuca, employing (as) their guide the same man through whose information they had learned of these things.

Chapter 36.  Contrary to Caesar's instructions, Cicero sends out a foraging party from the camp.

Cicero, who, in accordance with Caesar's instructions, had kept his soldiers in camp with the greatest care during all the previous days, and had not allowed even one of the camp-followers to go out beyond the fortification, distrusting on the seventh day that Caesar would keep faith with regard to the number of days, because he heard that (he had) advanced further, nor was any report about his return brought to (him), (and) at the same time having been influenced by the remarks of those who called his patience almost a siege, since (no one) was allowed (lit. it was not permitted [for anyone) to out of the camp, (although he was) expecting no disaster of such a kind that he could be attacked within three miles (of his camp), with nine legions and a very large (force of) cavalry having been placed in the way, (and) the enemy having been scattered and almost destroyed, sends five cohorts into the neighbouring cornfields, between which and the camp just a single hill was interposed, in order to forage. Several men from the legions had been left behind sick; of those who had recovered in this space of time, about three hundred, are sent together under (one) standard; in addition a large mob of camp-followers, and a great number of pack-animals, whey hich had stayed in the camp, permission having been given, follow (them).

Chapter 37.  The attack of the German cavalry takes Cicero's men by surprise.  

At this very time the German cavalry by chance come on the scene, and immediately, with that same speed with which they had come, attempt to burst into the camp at the rear gate, nor were they seen, some woods having been thrown up on that side, until they approached the camp, such that the traders who had spread (their booths) under the rampart, had no chance to withdraw. Our men, being caught unawares by this sudden event, are thrown into confusion, and the cohort on guard scarcely sustains the first attack. The enemy pours around (the camp) on the other sides (to see) whether they could find any entry.Our men defend the gates with difficulty, (and) the very position of the fortification protects itself on its own account. There is agitation (lit. it is agitated) in the entire camp, and one man inquires of another the reason for the uproar; nor did they determine whither the standards should be borne nor into what area each man should assemble. One man announces that the camp (has) already (been) taken, another maintains that, the army, and the commander-in-chief as well, having been destroyed, the barbarians have come (as) conquerors; the majority picture to themselves fresh superstitions from the spot, and set before their eyes the disaster of Cotta and Titurius, who (as they recalled) had fallen in the same fortress. All having been terrified by such fear, the belief is strengthened in the case of the barbarians that, as they had learned from their prisoner, there is no garrison within. They endeavour to break through and encourage one another not to let so great a chance slip from their hands.

Chapter 38.  The garrison is saved by the heroism of the centurion Sextius.

Publius Sextius Baculus, who had been serving with Caesar (as) the principal centurion (of his legion), (and) of whom we have made mention in earlier engagements, had been left behind with the garrison sick, and had now been without food for five days. He, doubtful of his own safety and (that) of everyone (else), goes forth from his tent unarmed: he sees that the enemy are close at hand and that the situation was in the greatest danger: he takes arms from those nearest (to him) and stations himself in the gateway: the centurions of that cohort which was on guard follow him: for a short while they sustain the fight together. Sextius faints (lit. Consciousness leaves Sextius), grave wounds having been received (by him): he is saved with difficulty, having been dragged (along) by the hands (of his comrades). This space (of time) having been interposed, the rest assert themselves so far as to venture to take their place on the fortifications and to present the aspect of defenders.

Chapter 39.  The return of the foragers leads the Germans to suspend their attack temporarily. 

In the meantime, the foraging having been completed, our soldiers clearly hear the shouting: the cavalry speed forward; they discover in what great danger the situation is. But here there is no fortification to receive (them) in their alarm: only just enlisted, and unskilled in the practices of war, they turn their faces towards the military tribunes and the centurions; they await what may be ordered by them. No one is so brave that he is not alarmed by the strangeness of the situation. The barbarians, catching sight of the standards from a distance, halt their attack: they suppose that the legions, which they had learned from their prisoners had gone quite a long way off, had returned; afterwards, their small number having been despised, they make an attack (on them) from all sides.

Chapter 40.  The differing fates of the foraging party. 

The camp-followers, dash forward to the nearest hillock. Having been speedily driven hence, they throw themselves among the standards and the maniples: they scare the frightened soldiers (all) the more. (Of these) some propose that, a wedge having been formed, they should break through speedily, since (as they say) the camp is so close, and they trust that, if some part (of them) should be surrounded and slain (lit. having been surrounded should be slain), yet the rest could be saved; others (propose) that they should take their stand on a ridge and all endure the same fate. The veteran soldiers, whom we have stated (had) set out together under a standard, do not approve of this latter (plan). Therefore, encouraging each other, with Gaius Trebonius, a Roman knight, (N.B. he is a different man to the one mentioned in Chapter 33) who had been put in command of them, (as) their leader, they break through the midst of the enemy and all arrive safe in the camp to a man. The camp-followers and the cavalry, following them closely in the same onrush, are saved by the courage of the soldiers. But those who had taken up position on the ridge, no experience of military matters having been gained even now, could neither persevere in that plan which they had approved, (namely) to defend themselves on this higher ground, nor imitate that vigour and speed which they had observed had benefited others, but, attempting to retreat into the camp, descended on to unfavourable ground. Their centurions, some of whom had been transferred, because of their valour, from the lower ranks of other legions into the higher ranks of this legion, in order that they should not lose the reputation for military exploits which they had previously acquired, fell together, fighting most courageously. The enemy, having been driven back by their valour, some of the soldiers arrive in the camp unharmed, (but) some are surrounded by the barbarians and perish (lit. having been surrounded by the barbarians perish).

Chapter 41.  Despite the Germans' retreat across the Rhine, the garrison remains petrified with fear. 

The Germans, the storming of the camp having been despaired of, because they saw that our men had now taken up their positions on the fortifications, retreated across the Rhine with that booty which they had deposited in the woods. But fear of the enemy, even after their departure, was so great that on that night, when Gaius Volusenus, (who had been) sent with the cavalry, had arrived at the camp, he could not make (them) believe (lit. could not create the belief) that Caesar was close by with the army unharmed. Fear had so completely seized hold of their minds that, their reason having been almost deranged, they said that, all (other) forces having been destroyed,  the cavalry (alone) had retreated in flight, and they maintained that, if the army were safe (lit. with the army [being] safe), the Germans would not have attacked the camp. This fear Caesar's arrival removed.

Chapter 42.  Caesar is displeased that his orders had been disregarded. 

On his return, he, not being unaware of the fortunes of war, (and) complaining of (only) one thing, that the cohorts had been sent away from their post and their garrison (duty), was of the opinion that room for even the slightest mischance ought not to have been left and that fortune had shown herself very powerful in the sudden arrival of the enemy, (and) was even greater, inasmuch as she turned away the barbarians almost from the very rampart and gates of the camp. Of all these events it seemed the most remarkable (lit. the most worthy of wonder) that the Germans, who had crossed the Rhine with this object, that they might ravage the territories of Ambiorix, having been led to the Romans' camp, had rendered Ambiorix the most acceptable service.

Chapter 43.  Caesar devastates the lands of the Eburones, but Ambiorix manages to escape. 

Caesar, marching forth once more for the purpose of the enemy being harassed, a large number (of auxiliaries) having been collected from the neighbouring states, dispatches (these) in all directions. Every village and every building that anyone had seen was set ablaze; plundered (cattle) were driven from every place; the corn-crops had been consumed by so great a host of beasts of burden and humans, but also had fallen (to earth) owing to the time of year and storms, so that, even if any had concealed themselves for the present, still it seemed that, the army having been drawn off, they must perish through want of all things. And it often came to such a pass that, so great (a body of) cavalry having been dispersed in all directions, that prisoners looked around for Ambiorix (who had) just (been) seen by them in flight, and they maintained that he had not even quite gone out of sight, so that, the hope of overtaking (him) having been offered, and unbounded exertions having been undertaken, (those) who thought that they should win favour from Caesar almost surpassed (the bounds of) nature in their zeal, and always only a little thing seemed to be wanting to (achieve) complete success, but he rescued himself by means of hiding-places and glades, and, concealed by night, he made for other districts and quarters with no greater guard than the four horsemen to whom he ventured to entrust his life.

Chapter 44.  Having held an investigation into the conspiracy of the Senones and Carnutes, Caesar returns to Italy. 

These districts having been devastated in such a manner, Caesar leads his army back with the loss of two cohorts to Durocortorum of the Remi (i.e. Reims), and, a council of Gaul having been proclaimed at that place, he resolves to hold an investigation with regard to the conspiracy of the Senones and the Carnutes, and, a heavier (than usual) sentence having been pronounced in the case of Acco, who had been the leader of that plot, he exacted punishment in accordance with the custom of our ancestors (i.e. he was flogged to death). Fearing a trial, some fled. When he had banished them (lit. he had forbidden them water and fire), he placed in winter-quarters two legions at the frontiers of the Treviri, two among the Lingones, (and) the other six at Agedincum (i.e. Sens) in the territories of the Senones, and a corn-supply having been provided for the army, he set out for Italy (i.e. Cisalpine Gaul), as he had arranged, for the purpose of assizes being held.


Dates of Sabidius's translations of the Books of Caesar's "De Bello Gallico":

Book I:   01/01/2011

Book II:  18/06/2011

Book III:  01/05/2012

Book IV:  06/10/2012

Book V:   31/08/2010

Book VI:  07/08/2013 (see above)

Book VII:  03/12/2013