Caesar's Campaign in Gaul

Caesar's Military Narrative.--Divisions of Gaul.--Distribution of Population.--The Celts.--Degree of Civilization.--Tribal System.--The Druids.--The AEdui and the Sequani.--Roman and German Parties.--Intended Migration of the Helvetii.--Composition of Caesar's Army.--He goes to Gaul.--Checks the Helvetii.--Returns to Italy for Larger Forces.--The Helvetii on the Saône.--Defeated, and sent back to Switzerland.--Invasion of Gaul by Ariovistus.--Caesar invites him to a Conference.--He refuses.-- Alarm in the Roman Army.--Caesar marches against Ariovistus.--Interview between them.--Treachery of the Roman Senate.--Great Battle at Colmar.-- Defeat and Annihilation of the Germans.--End of the First Campaign.-- Confederacy among the Belgae.--Battle on the Aisne.--War with the Nervii.--Battle of Maubeuge.--Capture of Namur.--The Belgae conquered.-- Submission of Brittany.--End of the Second Campaign. > Julius Caesar > Chapter 14


From the fermentation of Roman politics, the passions of the Forum and Senate, the corrupt tribunals, the poisoned centre of the Empire, the story passes beyond the frontier of Italy. We no longer depend for our account of Caesar on the caricatures of rival statesmen. He now becomes himself our guide. We see him in his actions and in the picture of his personal character which he has unconsciously drawn. Like all real great men, he rarely speaks of himself. He tells us little or nothing of, his own feelings or his own purposes. Cicero never forgets his individuality. In every line that he wrote Cicero was attitudinizing for posterity, or reflecting on the effect of his conduct upon his interests or his reputation. Caesar is lost in his work; his personality is scarcely more visible than Shakespeare's.

Caesar's Campaign in Gaul

He was now forty-three years old. His abstemious habits had left his health unshaken. He was in the fullest vigor of mind and body, and it was well for him that his strength had not been undermined. He was going on an expedition which would make extraordinary demands upon his energies. That he had not contemplated operations so extended as those which were forced upon him is evident from the nature of his preparations. His command in Further Gaul had been an afterthought, occasioned probably by news which had been received of movements in progress there during his consulship. Of the four legions which were allowed to him, one only was beyond the Alps; three were at Aquileia. It was late in life for him to begin the trade of a soldier; and as yet, with the exception of his early service in Asia and a brief and limited campaign in Spain when propraetor, he had no military experience at all. His ambition hitherto had not pointed in that direction; nor is it likely that a person of so strong an understanding would have contemplated beforehand the deliberate undertaking of the gigantic war into which circumstances immediately forced him. Yet he must have known that he had to deal with a problem of growing difficulty. The danger to Italy from inroads across the Alps was perpetually before the minds of thoughtful Roman statesmen. Events were at that moment taking place among the Gallic tribes which gave point to the general uneasiness. And unwilling as the Romans were to extend their frontiers and their responsibilities in a direction so unknown and so unpromising, yet some interference either by arms or by authority beyond those existing limits was being pressed upon them in self-defence.

The Transalpine Gaul of Caesar was the country included between the Rhine, the ocean, the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean, and the Alps. Within these limits, including Switzerland, there was at this time a population vaguely estimated at six or seven millions. The Roman Province stretched along the coast to the Spanish border; it was bounded on the north by the Cevennes mountains, and for some generations by the Isère; but it had been found necessary lately 1 to annex the territory of the Allobroges (Dauphine and Savoy), and the proconsular authority was now extended to within a few miles of Geneva. The rest was divided into three sections, inhabited by races which, if allied, were distinctly different in language, laws, and institutions. The Aquitani, who were connected with the Spaniards or perhaps the Basques, held the country between the Pyrenees and the Garonne. The Belgae, whom Caesar believed to have been originally Germans, extended from the mouth of the Seine to the mouth of the Rhine, and inland to the Marne and Moselle. The people whom the Romans meant especially when they spoke of Gauls occupied all the remainder. At one time the Celts had probably been masters of the whole of France, but had gradually yielded to encroachment. According to the Druids, they came out of darkness, ab Dite Patre; they called themselves Children of Night, counting time by nights instead of days, as we say fortnight and sennight. Comparison of language has taught us that they were a branch of the great Aryan race, one of the first which rolled westward into Europe, before Greeks or Latins had been heard of.

This once magnificent people was now in a state of change and decomposition. On Aquitaine and Belgium Roman civilization had as yet produced no effect. The severe habits of earlier generations remained unchanged. The Gauls proper had yielded to contact with the Province and to intercourse with Italian traders. They had built towns and villages. They had covered the land with farms and homesteads. They had made roads. They had bridged their rivers, even such rivers as the Rhone and the Loire. They had amassed wealth, and had adopted habits of comparative luxury, which, if it had not abated their disposition to fight, had diminished their capacity for fighting. Their political and perhaps their spiritual system was passing through analogous transformations. The ancient forms remained, but an altered spirit was working under them. From the earliest antiquity they had been divided into tribes and sub-tribes: each tribe and sub-tribe being practically independent, or united only by common objects and a common sentiment of race. The rule was the rule of the strong, under the rudest forms of tribal organization. The chief was either hereditary or elected, or won his command by the sword. The mass of the people were serfs. The best fighters were self-made nobles, under the chief's authority. Every man in the tribe was the chief's absolute subject; the chief, in turn, was bound to protect the meanest of them against injury from without. War, on a large scale or a small, had been the occupation of their lives. The son was not admitted into his father's presence till he was old enough to be a soldier. When the call to arms went out, every man of the required age was expected at the muster, and the last comer was tortured to death in the presence of his comrades as a lesson against backwardness.

As the secular side of things bore a rude resemblance to feudalism, so on the religious there was a similar anticipation of the mediaeval Catholic Church. The Druids were not a special family, like the Levites, or in any way born into the priesthood. They were an order composed of persons selected, when young, out of the higher ranks of the community, either for speciality of intellect, or from disposition, or by the will of their parents, or from a desire to avoid military service, from which the Druids were exempt. There were no tribal distinctions among them. Their head- quarters were in Britain, to which those who aspired to initiation in the more profound mysteries repaired for instruction; but they were spread universally over Gaul and the British Islands. They were the ministers of public worship, the depositaries of knowledge, and the guardians of public morality. Young men repaired to the Druids for education. They taught theology; they taught the movements of the stars. They presided in the civil courts and determined questions of disputed inheritance. They heard criminal cases and delivered judgment; and, as with the Church, their heaviest and most dreaded punishment was excommunication. The excommunicated person lost his civil rights. He became an outlaw from society, and he was excluded from participation in the sacrifices. In the religious services the victims most acceptable to the gods were human beings--criminals, if such could be had; if not, then innocent persons, who were burnt to death in huge towers of wicker. In the Quemadero at Seville, as in our own Smithfield, the prisoners of the Church were fastened to stakes, and the sticks with which they were consumed were tied into fagots, instead of being plaited into basket-work. So slight a difference does not materially affect the likeness.

The tribal chieftainship and the religious organization of the Druids were both of them inherited from antiquity. They were institutions descending from the time when the Gauls had been a great people; but both had outlived the age to which they were adapted, and one at least was approaching its end. To Caesar's eye, coming new upon them, the Druids were an established fact, presenting no sign of decay; but in Gaul, infected with Roman manners, they existed merely by habit, exercising no influence any longer over the hearts of the people. In the great struggle which was approaching we find no Druids among the national leaders, no spirit of religion inspiring and consecrating the efforts of patriotism. So far as can be seen, the Druids were on the Roman side, or the Romans had the skill to conciliate them. In half a century they were suppressed by Augustus, and they and their excommunications, and their flaming wicker-works, had to be sought for in distant Britain or in the still more distant Ireland. The active and secular leadership could not disappear so easily. Leaders of some kind were still required and inevitably found, but the method of selection in the times which had arrived was silently changing. While the Gallic nation retained, or desired to retain, a kind of unity, some one of the many tribes had always been allowed a hegemony. The first place had rested generally with the aedui, a considerable people who occupied the central parts of France, between the Upper Loire and the Saône. The Romans, anxious naturally to extend their influence in the country without direct interference, had taken the aedui under their protectorate. The aedui again had their clients in the inferior tribes; and a Romano-aeduan authority of a shadowy kind had thus penetrated through the whole nation.

But the aeduans had rivals and competitors in the Sequani, another powerful body in Burgundy and Franche-Comté. If the Romans feared, the Gauls, the Gauls in turn feared the Romans; and a national party had formed itself everywhere, especially among the younger men, who were proud of their independence, impatient of foreign control, and determined to maintain the liberties which had descended to them. To these the Sequani offered themselves as champions. Among the aedui too there were fiery spirits who cherished the old traditions, and saw in the Roman alliance a prelude to annexation. And thus it was that when Caesar was appointed to Gaul, in every tribe and every sub-tribe, in every village and every family, there were two factions, 2 each under its own captain, each struggling for supremacy, each conspiring and fighting among themselves, and each seeking or leaning upon external support. In many, if not in all, of the tribes there was a senate, or counsel of elders, and these appear almost everywhere to have been aeduan and Roman in their sympathies. The Sequani, as the representatives of nationalism, knowing that they could not stand alone, had looked for friends elsewhere.

The Germans had long turned covetous eyes upon the rich cornfields and pastures from which the Rhine divided them. The Cimbri and Teutons had been but the vanguard of a multitude who were eager to follow. The fate of these invaders had checked the impulse for half a century, but the lesson was now forgotten. Ariovistus, a Bavarian prince, who spoke Gaelic like a native, and had probably long meditated conquest, came over into Franche- Comté at the invitation of the Sequani, bringing his people with him. The few thousand families which were first introduced had been followed by fresh detachments; they had attacked and beaten the aedui, out of whose territories they intended to carve a settlement for themselves. They had taken hostages from them, and had broken down their authority, and the faction of the Sequani was now everywhere in the ascendant. The aedui, three years before Caesar came, had appealed to Rome for assistance, and the Senate had promised that the Governor of Gaul should support them. The Romans, hoping to temporize with the danger, had endeavored to conciliate Ariovistus, and in the year of Caesar's consulship had declared him a friend of the Roman people. Ariovistus, in turn, had pressed the aedui still harder, and had forced them to renounce the Roman alliance. Among the aedui, and throughout the country, the patriots were in the ascendant, and Ariovistus and his Germans were welcomed as friends and deliverers. Thoughtful persons in Rome had heard of these doings with uneasiness; an old aeduan chief had gone in person thither, to awaken the Senate to the growing peril; but the Senate had been too much occupied with its fears of Caesar, and agrarian laws, and dangers to the fish-ponds, to attend; and now another great movement had begun, equally alarming and still closer to the Roman border.

The Helvetii were old enemies. They were a branch of the Celtic race, who occupied modern Switzerland, hardy, bold mountaineers, and seasoned in constant war with their German neighbors. On them, too, the tide of migration from the north had pressed continuously. They had hitherto defended themselves successfully, but they were growing weary of these constant efforts. Their numbers were increasing, and their narrow valleys were too strait for them. They also had heard of fertile, scantily peopled lands in other parts, of which they could possess themselves by force or treaty, and they had already shown signs of restlessness. Many thousands of them had broken out at the time of the Cimbrian invasion. They had defeated Cassius Longinus, who was then consul, near their own border, and had annihilated his army. They had carried fire and sword down the left bank of the Rhone. They had united themselves with the Teutons, and had intended to accompany them into Italy. Their first enterprise failed. They perished in the great battle at Aix, and the parent tribe had remained quiet for forty years till a new generation had grown to manhood. Once more their ambition had revived. Like the Germans, they had formed friendships among the Gallic factions. Their reputation as warriors made them welcome to the patriots. In a fight for independence they would form a valuable addition to the forces of their countrymen. They had allies among the Sequani; they had allies in the anti-Roman party which had risen among the Aedui; and a plan had been formed in concert with their friends for a migration to the shores of the Bay of Biscay between the mouths of the Garonne and the Loire. The Cimbri and Teutons had passed away, but the ease with which the Cimbri had made the circuit of these districts had shown how slight resistance could be expected from the inhabitants. Perhaps their coming had been anticipated and prepared for. The older men among the Helvetii had discouraged the project when it was first mooted, but they had yielded to eagerness and enthusiasm, and it had taken at last a practical form. Double harvests had been raised; provision had been made of food and transport for a long march; and a complete exodus of the entire tribe with their wives and families had been finally resolved on.

If the Helvetii deserted Switzerland, the cantons would be immediately occupied by Germans, and a road would be opened into the province for the enemy whom the Romans had most reason to dread. The distinction between Germans and Gauls was not accurately known at Rome. They were confounded under the common name of Celts 3 or Barbarians. But they formed together an ominous cloud charged with forces of uncertain magnitude, but of the reality of which Italy had already terrible experience. Divitiacus, chief of the Aedui, who had carried to Rome the news of the inroads of Ariovistus, brought again in person thither the account of this fresh peril. Every large movement of population suggested the possibility of a fresh rush across the Alps. Little energy was to be expected from the Senate. But the body of the citizens were still sound at heart. Their lives and properties were at stake, and they could feel for the dignity of the Empire. The people had sent Pompey to crush the pirates and conquer Mithridates. The people now looked to Caesar, and instead of the "woods and forests" which the Senate designed for him, they had given him a five years' command on their western frontier.

The details of the problem before him Caesar had yet to learn, but with its general nature he must have intimately acquainted himself. Of course he had seen and spoken with Divitiacus. He was consul when Ariovistus was made "a friend of the Roman people." He must have been aware, therefore, of the introduction of the Germans over the Rhine. He could not tell what he might have first to do. There were other unpleasant symptoms on the side of Illyria and the Danube. From either quarter the storm might break upon him. No Roman general was ever sent upon an enterprise so fraught with complicated possibilities, and few with less experience of the realities of war.

The points in his favor were these. He was the ablest Roman then living, and he had the power of attracting and attaching the ablest men to his service. He had five years in which to look about him and to act at leisure--as much time as had been given to Pompey for the East. Like Pompey, too, he was left perfectly free. No senatorial officials could encumber him with orders from home. The people had given him his command, and to the people alone he was responsible. Lastly, and beyond everything, he could rely with certainty on the material with which he had to work. The Roman legionaries were no longer yeomen taken from the plough or shopkeepers from the street. They were men more completely trained in every variety of accomplishment than have perhaps ever followed a general into the field before or since. It was not enough that they could use sword and lance. The campaign on which Caesar was about to enter was fought with spade and pick and axe and hatchet. Corps of engineers he may have had; but if the engineers designed the work, the execution lay with the army. No limited department would have been equal to the tasks which every day demanded. On each evening after a march, a fortified camp was to be formed, with mound and trench, capable of resisting surprises, and demanding the labor of every single hand. Bridges had to be thrown over rivers. Ships and barges had to be built or repaired, capable of service against an enemy, on a scale equal to the requirements of an army, and in a haste which permitted no delay. A transport service there must have been organized to perfection; but there were no stores sent from Italy to supply the daily waste of material. The men had to mend and perhaps make their own clothes and shoes, and repair their own arms. Skill in the use of tools was not enough without the tools themselves. Had the spades and mattocks been supplied by contract, had the axes been of soft iron, fair to the eye and failing to the stroke, not a man in Caesar's army would have returned to Rome to tell the tale of its destruction. How the legionaries acquired these various arts, whether the Italian peasantry were generally educated in such occupations, or whether on this occasion there was a special selection of the best, of this we have no information. Certain only it was that men and instruments were as excellent in their kind as honesty and skill could make them; and, however degenerate the patricians and corrupt the legislature, there was sound stuff somewhere in the Roman constitution. No exertion, no forethought on the part of a commander could have extemporized such a variety of qualities. Universal practical accomplishments must have formed part of the training of the free Roman citizens. Admirable workmanship was still to be had in each department of manufacture, and every article with which Caesar was provided must have been the best of its kind.

The first quarter of the year 58 was consumed in preparations. Caesar's antagonists in the Senate were still raving against the acts of his consulship, threatening him with impeachment for neglecting Bibulus's interpellations, charging him with impiety for disregarding the weather, and clamoring for the suppression of his command. But Cicero's banishment damped the ardor of these gentlemen; after a few vicious efforts, they subsided into sullenness, and trusted to Ariovistus or the Helvetii to relieve them of their detested enemy. Caesar himself selected his officers. Cicero having declined to go as his lieutenant, he had chosen Labienus, who had acted with him, when tribune, in the prosecution of Rabirius, and had procured him the pontificate by giving the election to the people. Young men of rank in large numbers had forgotten party feeling, and had attached themselves to the expedition as volunteers to learn military experience. His own equipments were of the simplest. No common soldier was more careless of hardships than Caesar. His chief luxury was a favorite horse, which would allow no one but Caesar to mount him; a horse which had been bred in his own stables, and, from the peculiarity of a divided hoof, had led the augurs to foretell wonders for the rider of it. His arrangements were barely completed when news came in the middle of March that the Helvetii were burning their towns and villages, gathering their families into their wagons, and were upon the point of commencing their emigration. Their numbers, according to a register which was found afterward, were 368,000, of whom 92,000 were fighting men. They were bound for the West; and there were two roads, by one or other of which alone they could leave their country. One was on the right bank of the Rhone by the Pas de l'Ecluse, a pass between the Jura mountains and the river, so narrow that but two carts could go abreast along it; the other, and easier, was through Savoy, which was now Roman.

Under any aspect the transit of so vast a body through Roman territory could not but be dangerous. Savoy was the very ground on which Longinus had been destroyed. Yet it was in this direction that the Helvetii were preparing to pass, and would pass unless they were prevented; while in the whole Transalpine province there was but a single legion to oppose them. Caesar started on the instant. He reached Marseilles in a few days, joined his legion, collected a few levies in the Province, and hurried to Geneva. Where the river leaves the lake there was a bridge which the Helvetii had neglected to occupy. Caesar broke it, and thus secured a breathing time. The Helvetii, who were already on the move and were assembling in force a few miles off, sent to demand a passage. If it was refused, there was more than one spot between the lake and the Pas de l'Ecluse where the river could be forded. The Roman force was small, and Caesar postponed his reply.

It was the 1st of April; he promised an answer on the 15th. In the interval he threw up forts, dug trenches, and raised walls at every point where a passage could be attempted; and when the time was expired, he declined to permit them to enter the Province. They tried to ford; they tried boats; but at every point they were driven back. It remained for them to go by the Pas de l'Ecluse. For this route they required the consent of the Sequani; and, however willing the Sequani might be to see them in their neighbors' territories, they might object to the presence in their own of such a flight of devouring locusts. Evidently, however, there was some general scheme, of which the entry of the Helvetii into Gaul was the essential part; and through the mediation of Dumnorix, an Aeduan and an ardent patriot, the Sequani were induced to agree.

The Province had been saved, but the exodus of the enormous multitude could no longer be prevented. If such waves of population were allowed to wander at pleasure, it was inevitable that sooner or later they would overflow the borders of the Empire. Caesar determined to show, at once and peremptorily, that these movements would not be permitted without the Romans' consent. Leaving Labienus to guard the forts on the Rhone, he hurried back to Italy, gathered up his three legions at Aquileia, raised two more at Turin with extreme rapidity, and returned with them by the shortest route over the Mont Genèvre. The mountain tribes attacked him, but could not even delay his march. In seven days he had surmounted the passes, and was again with Labienus.

The Helvetii, meanwhile, had gone through the Pas de l'Ecluse, and were now among the Aedui, laying waste the country. It was early in the summer. The corn was green, the hay was still uncut, and the crops were being eaten off the ground. The Aedui threw themselves on the promised protection of Rome. Caesar crossed the Rhone above Lyons, and came up with the marauding hosts as they were leisurely passing in boats over the Saône. They had been twenty days upon the river, transporting their wagons and their families. Three quarters of them were on the other side. The Tigurini from Zurich, the most warlike of their tribes, were still on the left bank. The Tigurini had destroyed the army of Longinus, and on them the first retribution fell. Caesar cut them to pieces. A single day sufficed to throw a bridge over the Saône, and the Helvetii, who had looked for nothing less than to be pursued by six Roman legions, begged for peace. They were willing, they said, to go to any part of the country which Caesar would assign to them; and they reminded him that they might be dangerous if pushed to extremities. Caesar knew that they were dangerous. He had followed them because he knew it. He said that they must return the way that they had come. They must pay for the injuries which they had inflicted on the Aedui, and they must give him hostages for their obedience. The fierce mountaineers replied that they had been more used to demand hostages than to give them; and confident in their numbers, and in their secret allies among the Gauls, they marched on through the Aeduan territories up the level banks of the Saône, thence striking west toward Autun.

Caesar had no cavalry; but every Gaul could ride, and he raised a few thousand horse among his supposed allies. These he meant to employ to harass the Helvetian march; but they were secret traitors, under the influence of Dumnorix, and they fled at the first encounter. The Helvetii had thus the country at their mercy, and they laid it waste as they went, a day's march in advance of the Romans. So long as they kept by the river, Caesar's stores accompanied him in barges. He did not choose to let the Helvetii out of his sight, and when they left the Saône, and when he was obliged to follow, his provisions ran short. He applied to the Aeduan chiefs, who promised to furnish him, but they failed to do it. Ten days passed, and no supplies came in. He ascertained at last that there was treachery. Dumnorix and other Aeduan leaders were in correspondence with the enemy. The cavalry defeat and the other failures were thus explained. Caesar, who trusted much to gentleness and to personal influence, was unwilling to add the Aeduii to his open enemies. Dumnorix was the brother of Divitiacus, the reigning chief, whom Caesar had known in Rome. Divitiacus was sent for, confessed with tears his brother's misdeeds, and begged that he might be forgiven. Dumnorix was brought in. Caesar showed that he was aware of his conduct; but spoke kindly to him, and cautioned him for the future. The corn-carts, however, did not appear; supplies could not be dispensed with; and the Romans, leaving the Helvetii, struck off to Bibracte, on Mont Beauvray, the principal Aeduan town in the highlands of Nivernais. Unfortunately for themselves, the Helvetii thought the Romans were flying, and became in turn the pursuers. They gave Caesar an opportunity, and a single battle ended them and their migrations. The engagement lasted from noon till night. The Helvetii fought gallantly, and in numbers were enormously superior; but the contest was between skill and courage, sturdy discipline and wild valor; and it concluded as such contests always must. In these hand-to-hand engagements there were no wounded. Half the fighting men of the Swiss were killed; their camp was stormed; the survivors, with the remnant of the women and children, or such of them as were capable of moving (for thousands had perished, and little more than a third remained of those who had left Switzerland), straggled on to Langres, where they surrendered. Caesar treated the poor creatures with kindness and care. A few were settled in Gaul, where they afterward did valuable service. The rest were sent back to their own cantons, lest the Germans should take possession of their lands; and lest they should starve in the homes which they had desolated before their departure, they were provided with food out of the Province till their next crops were grown.

A victory so complete and so unexpected astonished the whole country. The peace party recovered the ascendency. Envoys came from all the Gaulish tribes to congratulate, and a diet of chiefs was held under Caesar's presidency, where Gaul and Roman seemed to promise one another eternal friendship. As yet, however, half the mischief only had been dealt with, and that the lighter part. The Helvetii were disposed of, but the Germans remained; and till Ariovistus was back across the Rhone, no permanent peace was possible. Hitherto Caesar had only received vague information about Ariovistus. When the diet was over, such of the chiefs as were sincere in their professions came to him privately and explained what the Germans were about. A hundred and twenty thousand of them were now settled near Belfort, and between the Vosges and the Rhine, with the connivance of the Sequani. More were coming, and in a short time Gaul would be full of them. They had made war on the Aedui; they were in correspondence with the anti-Roman factions; their object was the permanent occupation of the country.

Two months still remained of summer. Caesar was now conveniently near to the German positions. His army was in high spirits from its victory, and he himself was prompt in forming resolutions and swift in executing them. An injury to the Aedui could be treated as an injury to the Romans, which it would be dishonor to pass over. If the Germans were allowed to overrun Gaul, they might soon be seen again in Italy.

Ariovistus was a "friend of Rome." Caesar had been himself a party to the conferring this distinction upon him. As a friend, therefore, he was in the first instance to be approached. Caesar sent to invite him to a conference. Ariovistus, it seemed, set small value upon his honors. He replied that if he needed anything from Caesar, he would go to Caesar and ask for it. If Caesar required anything from him, Caesar might do the same. Meanwhile Caesar was approaching a part of Gaul which belonged to himself by right of conquest, and he wished to know the meaning of the presence of a Roman army there.

After such an answer, politeness ceased to be necessary. Caesar rejoined that since Ariovistus estimated so lightly his friendship with the Romans as to refuse an amicable meeting, he would inform him briefly of his demands upon him. The influx of Germans on the Rhine must cease: no more must come in. He must restore the hostages which he had taken from the Aedui, and do them no further hurt. If Ariovistus complied, the Romans would continue on good terms with him. If not, he said that by a decree of the Senate the Governor of Gaul was ordered to protect the Aedui, and he intended to do it.

Ariovistus answered that he had not interfered with the Romans; and the Romans had no right to interfere with him. Conquerors treated their subjects as they pleased. The Aedui had begun the quarrel with him. They had been defeated, and were now his vassals. If Caesar chose to come between him and his subjects, he would have an opportunity of seeing how Germans could fight who had not for fourteen years slept under a roof.

It was reported that a large body of Suevi were coming over the Rhine to swell Ariovistus's force, and that Ariovistus was on the point of advancing to seize Besançon. Besançon was a position naturally strong, being surrounded on three sides by the Doubs. It was full of military stores, and was otherwise important for the control of the Sequani. Caesar advanced swiftly and took possession of the place, and announced that he meant to go and look for Ariovistus.

The army so far had gained brilliant successes, but the men were not yet fully acquainted with the nature of their commander. They had never yet looked Germans in the face, and imagination magnifies the unknown. Roman merchants and the Gauls of the neighborhood brought stories of the gigantic size and strength of these northern warriors. The glare of their eyes was reported to be so fierce that it could not be borne. They were wild, wonderful, and dreadful. Young officers, patricians and knights, who had followed Caesar for a little mild experience, began to dislike the notion of these new enemies. Some applied for leave of absence; others, though ashamed to ask to be allowed to leave the army, cowered in their tents with sinking hearts, made their wills, and composed last messages for their friends. The centurions caught the alarm from their superiors, and the legionaries from the centurions. To conceal their fear of the Germans, the men discovered that, if they advanced farther, it would be through regions where provisions could not follow them, and that they would be starved in the forests. At length, Caesar was informed that if he gave the order to march, the army would refuse to move.

Confident in himself, Caesar had the power, so indispensable for a soldier, of inspiring confidence in others as soon as they came to know what he was. He called his officers together. He summoned the centurions, and rebuked them sharply for questioning his purposes. The German king, he said, had been received at his own request into alliance with the Romans, and there was no reason to suppose that he meant to break with them. Most likely he would do what was required of him. If not, was it to be conceived that they were afraid? Marius had beaten these same Germans. Even the Swiss had beaten them. They were no more formidable than other barbarians. They might trust their commander for the commissariat. The harvest was ripe, and the difficulties were nothing. As to the refusal to march, he did not believe in it. Romans never mutinied, save through the rapacity or incompetence of their general. His life was a witness that he was not rapacious, and his victory over the Helvetii that as yet he had made no mistake. He should order the advance on the next evening, and it would then be seen whether sense of duty or cowardice was the stronger. If others declined, Caesar said that he should go forward alone with the legion which he knew would follow him, the 10th, which was already his favorite.

The speech was received with enthusiasm. The 10th thanked Caesar for his compliment to them. The rest, officers and men, declared their willingness to follow wherever he might lead them. He started with Divitiacus for a guide; and, passing Belfort, came in seven days to Cernay or to some point near it. Ariovistus was now but four-and-twenty miles from him. Since Caesar had come so far, Ariovistus said that he was willing to meet him. Day and place were named, the conditions being that the armies should remain in their ranks, and that Caesar and he might each bring a guard of horse to the interview. He expected that Caesar would be contented with an escort of the Aeduan cavalry. Caesar, knowing better than to trust himself with Gauls, mounted his 10th legion, and with them proceeded to the spot which Ariovistus had chosen. It was a tumulus, in the centre of a large plain equidistant from the two camps. The guard on either side remained two hundred paces in the rear. The German prince and the Roman general met on horseback at the mound, each accompanied by ten of his followers. Caesar spoke first and fairly. He reminded Ariovistus of his obligations to the Romans. The Aedui, he said, had from immemorial time been the leading tribe in Gaul. The Romans had an alliance with them of old standing, and never deserted their friends. He required Ariovistas to desist from attacking them, and to return their hostages. He consented that the Germans already across the Rhine might remain in Gaul, but he demanded a promise that no more should be brought over.

Ariovistus haughtily answered that he was a great king; that he had come into Gaul by the invitation of the Gauls themselves; that the territory which he occupied was a gift from them; and that the hostages of which Caesar spoke had remained with him with their free consent. The Aedui, he said, had begun the war, and, being defeated, were made justly to pay forfeit. He had sought the friendship of the Romans, expecting to profit by it. If friendship meant the taking away his subjects from him, he desired no more of such friendship. The Romans had their Province. It was enough for them, and they might remain there unmolested. But Caesar's presence so far beyond his own borders was a menace to his own independence, and his independence he intended to maintain. Caesar must go away out of those parts, or he and his Germans would know how to deal with him.

Then, speaking perhaps more privately, he told Caesar that he knew something of Rome and of the Roman Senate, and had learnt how the great people there stood affected toward the Governor of Gaul. Certain members of the Roman aristocracy had sent him messages to say that if he killed Caesar they would hold it a good service done, 4 and would hold him their friend forever. He did not wish, he said, to bind himself to these noble persons. He would prefer Caesar rather; and would fight Caesar's battles for him anywhere in the world if Caesar would but retire and leave him. Ariovistus was misled, not unnaturally, by these strange communications from the sovereign rulers of the Empire. He did not know, he could not know, that the genius of Rome and the true chief of Rome were not in the treacherous Senate, but were before him there on the field in the persons of Caesar and his legions.

More might have passed between them; but Ariovistus thought to end the conference by a stroke of treachery. His German guard had stolen round to where the Romans stood, and, supposing that they had Gauls to deal with, were trying to surround and disarm them. The men of the 10th legion stood firm; Caesar fell back and joined them, and, contenting themselves with simply driving off the enemy, they rode back to the camp.

[B.C. 57.] The army was now passionate for an engagement. Ariovistus affected a desire for further communication, and two officers were despatched to hear what he had to say; but they were immediately seized and put in chains, and the Germans advanced to within a few miles of the Roman outposts. The Romans lay entrenched near Cernay. The Germans were at Colmar. Caesar offered battle, which Ariovistus declined. Cavalry fights happened daily which led to nothing. Caesar then formed a second camp, smaller but strongly fortified, within sight of the enemy, and threw two legions into it. Ariovistus attacked them, but he was beaten back with loss. The "wise women" advised him to try no more till the new moon. But Caesar would not wait for the moon, and forced an engagement. The wives and daughters of the Germans rushed about their camp, with streaming hair, adjuring their countrymen to save them from slavery. The Germans fought like heroes; but they could not stand against the short sword and hand-to-hand grapple of the legionaries. Better arms and better discipline again asserted the superiority; and in a few hours the invaders were flying wildly to the Rhine. Young Publius Crassus, the son of the millionaire, pursued with the cavalry. A few swam the river; a few, Ariovistus among them, escaped in boats; all the rest, men and women alike, were cut down and killed. The Suevi, who were already on the Rhine, preparing to cross, turned back into their forests; and the two immediate perils which threatened the peace of Gaul had been encountered and trampled out in a single summer. The first campaign was thus ended. The legions were distributed in winter quarters among the Sequani, the contrivers of the mischief; and Labienus was left in charge of them. Caesar went back over the Alps to the Cisalpine division of the Province to look into the administration and to communicate with his friends in Rome.

In Gaul there was outward quiet; but the news of the Roman victories penetrated the farthest tribes and agitated the most distant households on the shores of the North Sea. The wintering of the legions beyond the province was taken to indicate an intention of permanent conquest. The Gauls proper were divided and overawed; but the Belgians of the north were not prepared to part so easily with their liberty. The Belgians considered that they too were menaced, and that now or never was the time to strike for their independence. They had not been infected with Roman manners. They had kept the merchants from their borders with their foreign luxuries. The Nervii, the fiercest of them, as the abstemious Caesar marks with approbation, were water-drinkers, and forbade wine to be brought among them, as injurious to their sinews and their courage. Caesar learnt while in Italy from Labienus that the Belgae were mustering and combining. A second vast horde of Germans were in Flanders and Artois; men of the same race with the Belgae and in active confederacy with them. They might have been left in peace, far off as they were, had they sat still; but the notes of their preparations were sounding through the country and feeding the restless spirit which was stunned but not subdued.

Caesar, on his own responsibility, raised two more legions and sent them across the Alps in the spring. When the grass began to grow he followed himself. Suddenly, before any one looked for him, he was on the Marne with his army. The Remi (people of Rheims), startled by his unexpected appearance, sent envoys with their submission and offers of hostages. The other Belgian tribes, they said, were determined upon war, and were calling all their warriors under arms. Their united forces were reported to amount to 300,000. The Bellovaci from the mouth of the Seine had sent 60,000; the Suessiones from Soissons 50,000; the Nervii, between the Sambre and the Scheldt, 50,000; Arras and Amiens, 25,000; the coast tribes, 36,000; and the tribes between the Ardennes and the Rhine, called collectively Germani, 40,000 more. This irregular host was gathered in the forests between Laon and Soissons.

Caesar did not wait for them to move. He advanced at once to Rheims, where he called the Senate together and encouraged them to be constant to the Roman alliance. He sent a party of Aedui down the Seine to harass the territory of the Bellovaci and recall them to their own defence; and he went on himself to the Aisne, which he crossed by a bridge already existing at Berry-au-Bac. There, with the bridge and river at his back, he formed an entrenched camp of extraordinary strength, with a wall 12 feet high and a fosse 22 feet deep. Against an attack with modern artillery such defences would, of course, be idle. As the art of war then stood, they were impregnable. In this position Caesar waited, leaving six cohorts on the left bank to guard the other end of the bridge. The Belgae came forward and encamped in his front. Their watch-fires at night were seen stretching along a line eight miles wide. Caesar, after feeling his way with his cavalry, found a rounded ridge projecting like a promontory into the plain where the Belgian host was lying. On this he advanced his legions, protecting his flanks with continuous trenches and earthworks, on which were placed heavy cross-bows, the ancient predecessors of cannon. Between these lines, if he attacked the enemy and failed, he had a secure retreat. A marsh lay between the armies; and each waited for the other to cross. The Belgians, impatient of delay, flung themselves suddenly on one side and began to pour across the river, intending to destroy the cohorts on the other bank, to cut the bridge, and burn and plunder among the Remi. Caesar calmly sent back his cavalry and his archers and slingers. They caught the enemy in the water or struggling out of it in confusion; all who had got over were killed; multitudes were slaughtered in the river; others, trying to cross on the bodies of their comrades, were driven back. The confederates, shattered at a single defeat, broke up like an exploded shell. Their provisions had run short. They melted away and dispersed to their homes, Labienus pursuing and cutting down all that he could overtake.

The Roman loss was insignificant in this battle. The most remarkable feature in Caesar's campaigns, and that which indicates most clearly his greatness as a commander, was the smallness of the number of men that he ever lost, either by the sword or by wear and tear. No general was ever so careful of his soldiers' lives.

Soissons, a fortified Belgian town, surrendered the next day. From Soissons Caesar marched on Breteuil and thence on Amiens, which surrendered also. The Bellovaci sent in their submission, the leaders of the war party having fled to Britain. Caesar treated them all with scrupulous forbearance, demanding nothing but hostages for their future good behavior. His intention at this time was apparently not to annex any of these tribes to Rome, but to settle the country in a quasi-independence under an Aeduan hegemony.

But the strongest member of the confederacy was still unsubdued. The hardy, brave, and water-drinking Nervii remained defiant. The Nervii would send no envoys; they would listen to no terms of peace. 5 Caesar learnt that they were expecting to be joined by the Aduatuci, a tribe of pure Germans, who had been left behind near Liége at the time of the invasion of the Teutons. Preferring to engage them separately, he marched from Amiens through Cambray, and sent forward some officers and pioneers to choose a spot for a camp on the Sambre. Certain Gauls, who had observed his habits on march, deserted to the Nervii, and informed them that usually a single legion went in advance, the baggage-wagons followed, and the rest of the army came in the rear. By a sudden attack in front they could overwhelm the advanced troops, plunder the carts, and escape before they could be overtaken. It happened that on this occasion the order was reversed. The country was enclosed with thick fences, which required to be cut through. Six legions marched in front, clearing a road; the carts came next, and two legions behind. The site selected by the officers was on the left bank of the Sambre at Maubeuge, fifty miles above Namur. The ground sloped easily down to the river, which was there about a yard in depth. There was a corresponding rise on the other side, which was densely covered with wood. In this wood the whole force of the Nervii lay concealed, a few only showing themselves on the water side. Caesar's light horse which had gone forward, seeing a mere handful of stragglers, rode through the stream and skirmished with them; but the enemy retired under cover; the horse did not pursue; the six legions came up, and, not dreaming of the nearness of the enemy, laid aside their arms and went to work intrenching with spade and mattock. The baggage-wagons began presently to appear at the crest of the hill, the signal for which the Nervii had waited; and in a moment all along the river sixty thousand of them rushed out of the forest, sent the cavalry flying, and came on so impetuously that, as Caesar said, they seemed to be in the wood, in the water, and up the opposite bank at sword's point with the legions at the same moment. The surprise was complete: the Roman army was in confusion. Many of the soldiers were scattered at a distance, cutting turf. None were in their ranks, and none were armed. Never in all his campaigns was Caesar in greater danger. He could himself give no general orders which there was time to observe. Two points only, he said, were in his favor. The men themselves were intelligent and experienced, and knew what they had to do; and the officers were all present, because he had directed that none of them should leave their companies till the camp was completed. The troops were spread loosely in their legions along the brow of the ridge. Caesar joined the 10th on his right wing, and had but time to tell the men to be cool and not to agitate themselves, when the enemy were upon them. So sudden was the onslaught that they could neither put their helmets on, nor strip the coverings from their shields, nor find their places in the ranks. They fought where they stood among thick hedges which obstructed the sight of what was passing elsewhere. Though the Aduatuci had not come up, the Nervii had allies with them from Arras and the Somme. The allies encountered the 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th legions, and were driven rapidly back down the hill through the river. The Romans, led by Labienus, crossed in pursuit, followed them into the forest, and took their camp. The Nervii meanwhile flung themselves with all their force on the two legions on the left, the 12th and 7th, enveloped them with their numbers, penetrated behind them, and fell upon the baggage-wagons. The light troops and the camp-followers fled in all directions. The legionaries, crowded together in confusion, were fighting at disadvantage, and were falling thick and fast. A party of horse from Trèves, who had come to treat with Caesar, thought that all was lost, and rode off to tell their countrymen that the Romans were destroyed.

Caesar, who was in the other wing, learning late what was going on, hurried to the scene. He found the standards huddled together, the men packed so close that they could not use their swords, almost all the officers killed or wounded, and one of the best of them, Sextius Baculus (Caesar always paused in his narrative to note any one who specially distinguished himself), scarce able to stand. Caesar had come up unarmed. He snatched a shield from a soldier, and, bareheaded, flew to the front. He was known; he addressed the centurions by their names. He bade them open their ranks and give the men room to strike. His presence and his calmness gave them back their confidence. In the worst extremities he observes that soldiers will fight well under their commander's eye. The cohorts formed into order. The enemy was checked. The two legions from the rear, who had learnt the danger from the flying camp-followers, came up. Labienus, from the opposite hill, saw what had happened, and sent the 10th legion back. All was now changed. The fugitives, ashamed of their cowardice, rallied, and were eager to atone for it. The Nervii fought with a courage which filled Caesar with admiration--men of greater spirit he said that he had never seen. As their first ranks fell, they piled the bodies of their comrades into heaps, and from the top of them hurled back the Roman javelins. They would not fly; they dropped where they stood; and the battle ended only with their extermination. Out of 600 senators there survived but three; out of 60,000 men able to bear arms, only 500. The aged of the tribe, and the women and children, who had been left in the morasses for security, sent in their surrender, their warriors being all dead. They professed to fear lest they might be destroyed by neighboring clans who were on bad terms with them. Caesar received them and protected them, and gave severe injunctions that they should suffer no injury.

By the victory over the Nervii the Belgian confederacy was almost extinguished. The German Aduatuci remained only to be brought to submission. They had been on their way to join their countrymen; they were too late for the battle, and returned and shut themselves up in Namur, the strongest position in the Low Countries. Caesar, after a short rest, pushed on and came under their walls. The Aduatuci were a race of giants, and were at first defiant. When they saw the Romans' siege-towers in preparation, they could not believe that men so small could move such vast machines. When the towers began to approach, they lost heart and sued for terms. Caesar promised to spare their lives and properties if they surrendered immediately, but he refused to grant conditions. They had prayed to be allowed to keep their arms; affecting to believe, like the Nervii, that they would be in danger from the Gauls if they were unable to defend themselves. Caesar undertook that they should have no hurt, but he insisted that their arms must be given up. They affected obedience. They flung their swords and lances over the walls till the ditch was filled with them. They opened their gates; the Romans occupied them, but were forbidden to enter, that there might be no plundering. It seems that there was a desperate faction among the Aduatuci who had been for fighting to extremity. A third part of the arms had been secretly reserved, and after midnight the tribe sallied with all their force, hoping to catch the Romans sleeping. Caesar was not to be surprised a second time. Expecting that some such attempt might be made, he had prepared piles of fagots in convenient places. These bonfires were set blazing in an instant. By their red light the legions formed; and, after a desperate but unequal combat, the Germans were driven into the town again, leaving 4,000 dead. In the morning the gates were broken down, and Namur was taken without more resistance. Caesar's usual practice was gentleness. He honored brave men, and never punished bold and open opposition. Of treachery he made a severe example. Namur was condemned. The Aduatuci within its walls were sold into slavery, and the contractors who followed the army returned the number of prisoners whom they had purchased at 53,000. Such captives were the most valuable form of spoil.

The Belgae were thus crushed as completely as the Gauls had been crushed in the previous year. Publius Crassus had meanwhile made a circuit of Brittany, and had received the surrender of the maritime tribes. So great was the impression made by these two campaigns, that the Germans beyond the Rhine sent envoys with offers of submission. The second season was over. Caesar left the legions in quarters about Chartres, Orleans, and Blois. He himself returned to Italy again, where his presence was imperatively required. The Senate, on the news of his successes, had been compelled, by public sentiment, to order an extraordinary thanksgiving; but there were men who were anxious to prevent Caesar from achieving any further victories since Ariovistus had failed to destroy him.

[1] Perhaps in consequence of the Catiline conspiracy.

[2] "In Galliâ non solum in omnibus civitatibus atque in omnibus pagis partibusque sed paene etiam in singulis domibus factiones sunt, earumque factionum principes sunt qui summam auctoritatem eorum judicio habere existimantur.... Haec est ratio in summâ totius Galliae, namque omnes civitates in partes divisae sunt duas. Cum Caesar in Galliam venit, alterius factionis principes erant Haedui, alterius Sequani."--De Bello Gallico, lib. vi. capp. 11, 12.

[3] Even Dion Cassius speaks of the Germans as Keltoi.

[4] "Id se ab ipsis per eorum nuntios compertum habere, quorum omnium gratiam atque amicitiam ejus morte redimere posset."--De Bell. Gall., i. 44.

[5] Caesar thus records his admiration of the Nervian character: "Quorum de naturâ moribusque Caesar cum quaereret sic reperiebat, nullum aditum esse ad eos mercatoribus; nihil pati vini reliquarumque rerum ad luxuriam pertinentium inferri, quod iis rebus relanguescere animos eorum et remitti virtutem existimarent: esse homines feros magnaeque virtutis; increpitare atque incusare reliquos Belgas qui se populo Romano dedidissent patriamque virtutem projecissent; confirmare sese neque legatos missuros neque ullam conditionem pacis accepturos."--De Bell. Gall., ii. 15.

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