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Commentarii de Bello Gallico
(Commentaries on the Gallic War)  
An 18th century edition
An 18th century edition of Commentarii de Bello Gallico
Author Julius Caesar, Aulus Hirtius(VIII)
Language Classical Latin
Subject(s) History, Ethnography, Military history
Genre(s) Non-fiction
Publisher Julius Caesar
Publication date ? 50s or 40s BC
Followed by Commentarii de Bello Civili
Roman Millitary banner.svg
This article is part of the series on:
Military of ancient Rome (portal)
753 BC – AD 476
Structural history
Roman army (unit types and ranks, legions, auxiliaries, generals)
Roman navy (fleets, admirals)
Campaign history
Lists of wars and battles
Decorations and punishments
Technological history
Military engineering (castra, siege engines, arches, roads)
Personal equipment
Political history
Strategy and tactics
Infantry tactics
Frontiers and fortifications (limes, Hadrian's Wall)

Commentarii de Bello Gallico (English: Commentaries on the Gallic War) is Julius Caesar's firsthand account of the Gallic Wars, written as a third-person narrative. In it Caesar describes the battles and intrigues that took place in the nine years he spent fighting local armies in Gaul that opposed Roman domination. The "Gaul" that Caesar refers to is sometimes all of Gaul except for the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis (modern day Provence), encompassing the rest of modern France, Belgium and some of Switzerland.

Contents

On other occasions, he refers only to that territory inhabited by the Celtic peoples known to the Romans as Gauls, from the English Channel to Lugdunum (Lyon).

The account has often been used in teaching Latin. It begins with the common phrase "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres" (sometimes quoted as "Omnia Gallia in tres partes divisa est" for "All Gaul is divided into three parts"). The full work is divided into 8 sections, Book 1 to Book 8, each varying in size from nearly 5000 to 15,000 words.

Title

The Latin title, literally Commentaries about the Gallic War, is often retained in English translations of the book, and the title is also translated to About the Gallic War, Of the Gallic War, On the Gallic War, The Conquest of Gaul, and The Gallic War.

Contents

The first book deals primarily but not exclusively with the Helvetian War in 58 BC. In it, Caesar describes Gaul and the campaign against the Helvetii, a conglomeration of peoples numbering in excess of 300,000, who decided to migrate by force of arms from the Alpine regions through the centre of Gaul to the west to alleviate population pressures. This would require the crossing either of Provence, or of areas held by tribes allied to Rome. When Caesar made it clear he would not allow this, the Helvetians formed an alliance of tribes to fight him. This drew the Romans out of Provence. Later books are about the campaigns against Veneti, Aquitani, Germanic peoples and Bretons; Caesar's invasions of Britain; the insurrection of Gaul,[1] and the defeat of Vercingetorix at the Battle of Alesia.[2]

Caesar distinguishes three ethnic groups living in Gaul who were subdued by his forces: the Gauls, who lived in the center of the country; the Aquitani, who lived in what is now Aquitaine; and the Belgae, who lived in the north. Campaigns typically started in late summer with the provisioning of grain and construction of fortresses, and ended late in the year when Caesar returned to his winter quarters among the Sequani for the winter (Caesar 42). He campaigned with a number of legions in his army, sometimes as many as eight. He faced a variety of tribal armies, often hasty alliances of them, some numbering – or at least claimed to number – over 100,000 strong. Many of the campaigns end with the Roman cavalry running down thousands of fleeing tribesmen, and often their women and children as well. In one instance he defeated a tribe and immediately sold all 53,000 survivors into slavery.

Criticisms

After the second year of campaigning many of the hostile tribes had been defeated and much of Gaul was under some degree of Roman control. By this point any threat to the province, or to Rome itself, was dubious at best. The book may also have been intended as an answer to Caesar's political opponents, who questioned the real need for this costly war, at the time one of the most expensive in Roman history. Many of the reasons provided clearly stretch the credulity of its readers. For instance, his reasons for invading Britain came down to noting that while fighting in north-west Gaul, local armies were often supported by mercenaries from Britain.

Influence

Educational use

It is often lauded for its polished, clear Latin. This book is traditionally the first authentic text assigned to students of Latin, as Xenophon's Anabasis is for students of Ancient Greek; they are both autobiographical tales of military adventure told in the third person. The style is simple and elegant, essential and not rhetorical, dry as a chronicle. It contains many details and employs many stylistic devices in order to promote Caesar's political interests.[3]

Also, the books are valuable for the many geographical and historical facts that can be retrieved from the work. Notable chapters describe Gaulish costume (VI, 13), their religion (VI, 17), a comparison between Gauls and Germanic peoples (VI, 24) and other curious notes such as the lack of Germanic interest in agriculture (VI, 22).

The account (Book 1) begins with the commonly quoted Latin phrase "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres" (often quoted as "Omnia Gallia in tres partes divisa est" ) translated into English as, "All Gaul is divided into three parts". Those 3 parts are: Belgae, Aquitani and Galli (as stated in the phrase "quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli appellantur." ).

Astérix

Since Caesar is one of the characters in the Astérix and Obélix albums, René Goscinny included gags for French schoolchildren who had the Commentarii as a textbook. One example is having Caesar talk about himself in the third person as in the book.

Vorenus and Pullo

In Book 5, Chapter 44 the Commentarii de Bello Gallico notably mentions Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, two Roman centurions of the 11th Legion.[4] The 2005 television series Rome gives a fictionalized account of Caesar's rise and fall, featuring Kevin McKidd as the character of Lucius Vorenus and Ray Stevenson as the character of Titus Pullo.

See also

References

  1. ^ Caesar, VII, 4.
  2. ^ Caesar, VII, 89.
  3. ^ cf. Albrecht, Michael v.: Geschichte der römischen Literatur Band 1 (History of Roman Literature, Volume 1). Munich 1994, 2nd ed., p. 332-334.
  4. ^ Prior to its demobilization and subsequent remobilization by Augustus - see also Republican and Imperatorial legions. Julius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico 5.44

External links


Commentarii de Bello Gallico
(Commentaries on the Gallic War)  
Author Julius Caesar, Aulus Hirtius(VIII)
Language Classical Latin
Subject(s) History, Ethnography, Military history
Genre(s) Non-fiction
Publisher Julius Caesar
Publication date ? 50s or 40s BC
Followed by Commentarii de Bello Civili
This article is part of the series on:
Military of ancient Rome (portal)
753 BC – AD 476
Structural history
Roman army (unit types and ranks, legions, auxiliaries, generals)
Roman navy (fleets, admirals)
Campaign history
Lists of wars and battles
Decorations and punishments
Technological history
Military engineering (castra, siege engines, arches, roads)
Personal equipment
Political history
Strategy and tactics
Infantry tactics
Frontiers and fortifications (limes, Hadrian's Wall)

Commentarii de Bello Gallico (English: Commentaries on the Gallic War) is Julius Caesar's firsthand account of the Gallic Wars, written as a third-person narrative. In it Caesar describes the battles and intrigues that took place in the nine years he spent fighting local armies in Gaul that opposed Roman domination.

The "Gaul" that Caesar refers to is sometimes all of Gaul except for the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis (modern day Provence), encompassing the rest of modern France, Belgium and some of Switzerland. On other occasions, he refers only to that territory inhabited by the Celtic peoples known to the Romans as Gauls, from the English Channel to Lugdunum (Lyon).

The work has been a mainstay in the teaching of Latin to schoolchildren, its simple, direct prose lending itself to that purpose. It begins with the frequently quoted phrase "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres", sometimes quoted as "Omnia Gallia in tres partes divisa est", meaning "All Gaul is divided into three parts". The full work is divided into eight sections, Book 1 to Book 8, each varying in size from approximately 5,000 to 15,000 words. Book 8 was written by Aulus Hirtius after Caesar's death.

Contents

Title

The Latin title, literally Commentaries about the Gallic War, is often retained in English translations of the book, and the title is also translated to About the Gallic War, Of the Gallic War, On the Gallic War, The Conquest of Gaul, and The Gallic War.

Contents

The first book deals primarily but not exclusively with the Helvetian War in 58 BC. In it, Caesar describes Gaul and the campaign against the Helvetii, a conglomeration of peoples numbering in excess of 300,000, who decided to migrate by force of arms from the Alpine regions through the centre of Gaul to the west to alleviate population pressures. This would require the crossing either of Provence, or of areas held by tribes allied to Rome. When Caesar made it clear he would not allow this, the Helvetians formed an alliance of tribes to fight him. This drew the Romans out of Provence. Later books are about the campaigns against Veneti, Aquitani, Germanic peoples and Bretons; Caesar's invasions of Britain; the insurrection of Gaul,[1] and the defeat of Vercingetorix at the Battle of Alesia.[2]

Caesar distinguishes three ethnic groups living in Gaul who were subdued by his forces: the Gauls, who lived in the center of the country; the Aquitani, who lived in what is now Aquitaine; and the Belgae, who lived in the north. Campaigns typically started in late summer with the provisioning of grain and construction of fortresses, and ended late in the year when Caesar returned to his winter quarters among the Sequani for the winter.[3] He campaigned with a number of legions in his army, sometimes as many as eight. He faced a variety of tribal armies, often hasty alliances of them, some numbering—or at least claimed to number—over 100,000 strong. Many of the campaigns end with the Roman cavalry running down thousands of fleeing tribesmen, and often their women and children, too. In one instance he defeated a tribe and immediately sold all 53,000 survivors into slavery.

Influence

Educational use

It is often lauded for its polished, clear Latin. This book is traditionally the first authentic text assigned to students of Latin, as Xenophon's Anabasis is for students of Ancient Greek; they are both autobiographical tales of military adventure told in the third person. The style is simple and elegant, essential and not rhetorical. It contains many details and employs many stylistic devices to promote Caesar's political interests.[4]

Also, the books are valuable for the many geographical and historical facts that can be retrieved from the work. Notable chapters describe Gaulish costume (VI, 13), their religion (VI, 17), a comparison between Gauls and Germanic peoples (VI, 24) and other curious notes such as the lack of Germanic interest in agriculture (VI, 22).

The account (Book 1) begins with the commonly quoted Latin phrase Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres translated into English as, "All Gaul is divided into three parts". The inhabitants of those three parts are the Belgae, the Aquitani and the Galli (as stated in the phrase quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli appellantur).

Astérix

Since Caesar is one of the characters in the Astérix and Obélix albums, René Goscinny included gags for French schoolchildren who had the Commentarii as a textbook. One example is having Caesar talk about himself in the third person as in the book.

Vorenus and Pullo

In Book 5, Chapter 44 the Commentarii de Bello Gallico notably mentions Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, two Roman centurions of the 11th Legion.[5] The 2005 television series Rome gives a fictionalized account of Caesar's rise and fall, featuring Kevin McKidd as the character of Lucius Vorenus and Ray Stevenson as the character of Titus Pullo.

See also

References

  1. ^ Caesar, VII, 4.
  2. ^ Caesar, VII, 89.
  3. ^ Caesar 42.
  4. ^ cf. Albrecht, Michael v.: Geschichte der römischen Literatur Band 1 (History of Roman Literature, Volume 1). Munich 1994, 2nd ed., p. 332–334.
  5. ^ Prior to its demobilization and subsequent remobilization by Augustus—see also Republican and Imperatorial legions. Julius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico 5.44

External links








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