The Conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar.

Julius Caesar was a dictator of Rome and military general, and from 58 B. C. - 50 B.C. he waged war against the Gallic tribes - France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Germany, and twice invaded Britain. In The Conquest of Gaul (Commentarii de Bello Gallico) he writes his account of this period.

The account is divided into eight books and in Book I, 'The Expulsion of Intruders' (divided into two parts, 'Repulse of the Helvetti, 58 B.C. and 'Expulsion of Ariovistus from Gaul, 58 B.C.) begins by describing Gaul - the people (Belgae, the Aquitani, and the Celtae) and the geography (which was somewhat inaccurate). He describes the Helvetii (part of the Celtae), lead by Orgetorix, who staged a rebellion in 58 B.C. and, according to Caesar, threatened Rome. Once defeated they turn their attention to the Sequani (a German tribe) and defeat these also, however Ariovistus, their leader, escapes.

In Book II, 'The Conquest of the Belgic Tribes' (divided into 'Collapse of the Belgic coalition, 57 B.C. and 'Piecemeal conquest of the Belgic tribes, 57 B.C.) Caesar writes of how there are rumours that the Belgae are planning to attack Rome, and so enlists the Senones (among others) to spy until it is time to do battle. He defeats them too with the help of neighbouring nations and so extends the influence of Rome.

Book III, 'The First Rebellion', is divided into four sections: (1) Unsuccessful campaign in the Alps (57 B.C.), (2) The fight on the Atlantic coast (56 B.C.), (3) Victorious campaign in Aquitania (56 B.C), and (4) Indecisive campaign against the Morini (56 B.C.). Servius Sulpicius Galba is sent to the Nantuates, the Veragri, and the Seduni to organise a road for the Romans who are paying heavy tolls. He is attacked, and when the Veneti also rebel Caesar attacks once more and subdues those who fight against the Romans.

In Book IV 'Invasions of Germany and Britain' (Massacre of the Usipetes and Tenctheri, 55 B.C., The first crossing of the Rhine, 55 B.C., and The first invasion of Britain, 55 B.C.) Caesar invades Germany and, because Britain has been funding those who fight against Rome, he invades and defeats Britain. In Book V, 'The Second Rebellion' (The second invasion of Britain, 54 B.C., Destruction of Sabinus' army by the Eburones, 54 B.C., Attack by the Nervii on Cicero's winter camp, 54 B.C., and Widespread revolts in northern and central Gaul, 54 - 53 B.C.) Caesar describes a second invasion of Britain in which with a strong fleet makes his way up the Thames and defeats the British for a second time. There is, however, trouble elsewhere but eventually subdues any rebellion.

These rebellions continue, as Caesar describes in Book VI 'Operations near the Rhine' (The Treveri routed, 53 B.C., The second crossing of the Rhine, 53 B.C.), Customs and institutions of the Gauls, Customs and institutions of the Germans, and Devastation of the country of the Eburones, 53 B.C.). These too are subdued, but the most interesting part of this section is the description of the cultures and religions of the Germans and Gauls.

Books VII and VIII are essentially a 'rounding off' and focus on events from 52 - 51 B.C. It is the longest section and Caesar writes not only of further rebellions of Vercingetorix, Bituriges, Carnutes, and the Bellovaci, the siege of Alesia, and the capture of Uxellodunum, but also civil war (which he continues to write about in Commentarii de Bello Civili) and even treachery within his own people. Under Caesar the Romans were, of course, successful, and this work is a piece of propaganda to show Caesar's military strength and intelligence. It also has a very direct style (and was written in the third eprson) which is quite striking, but apart from a few moments of excitement it was actually a very dull read indeed. Fortunately it's also quite short, and it is a worthwhile read just to learn a little about a great man in his own words. Sorry to Caesar, though, I'm just glad to have finished it and I do feel heartily sorry for the French children who had to study it at school.

Comments

  1. i've got the Penguin edition of this but haven't read it... long perorations about war don't seem as attractive as they once were... i always feel sorry for the losers...

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    1. I just found it tedious. I'm no good with war stuff, it rarely interests me. Even my beloved Zola's war book didn't really grip me!

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  2. I tried to read this after finishing Goldsworthy's excellent book on Caesar. I didn't finish it. Like you I found it very dull.

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    1. I think just reading a bit of it is enough. It does get quite painful after a while...

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  3. I tried once. SO dull. Now my 17yo wants to study Latin again and try to read it. Good luck, kid.

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    1. D: Yup, good luck to her.... :S

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