Gallic Wars

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Gallic Wars
Vercingetorix Throws Down His Arms at the Feet of Julius Caesar, 1899, by Lionel Noel Royer
Date58–50 BC
Result Roman victory
Roman Republic annexes Gaul
Gaul becomes a Roman province
Local client kings and tributary tribes set up in Britain
Roman Republic Britons and Aquitanian tribes as well as portions of Iberian tribesmen
Commanders and leaders
Julius Caesar
Titus Labienus
Mark Antony
Quintus Tullius Cicero
Publius Licinius Crassus
Decimus Brutus Albinus
Servius Sulpicius Galba

Modern estimates:

  • 30,000 troops (6 under-strength legions plus cavalry auxiliaries)[2]
  • (58 BC) 11 legions
    10,000 auxiliaries[3][4]
  • 60–75,000 approx. total Romans and allies in 52BC at Alesia
  • Appian: 4,000,000 in total[5]
  • Plutarch: 3,000,000 in total[6]
  • Modern estimates: 70,000–100,000 Gallic combatants in 52 BC at Alesia[7][2]
  • Casualties and losses
    Credibly estimated at 30,000+ killed and 10,000+ wounded Plutarch and Appian:
    1,000,000 Celts killed in battle[5][6]
    1,000,000+ Celts captured or enslaved[5][6]
    800 towns destroyed[8]
    Julius Caesar:
    430,000 Germani killed[9]
    All these figures are considered not credible by Henige[10]

    The Gallic Wars were a series of military campaigns waged by the Roman proconsul Julius Caesar against numerous Gallic tribes between 58 BC and 50 BC. The wars culminated in the decisive Battle of Alesia in 52 BC, in which a complete Roman victory resulted in the expansion of the Roman Republic over the whole of Gaul (mainly present-day France and Belgium). While militarily just as strong as the Romans, the Gallic tribes' internal divisions helped ease victory for Caesar, and Vercingetorix's attempt to unite the Gauls against Roman invasion came too late.[11][12] Although Caesar portrayed the invasion as being a preemptive and defensive action, most historians agree that the wars were fought primarily to boost Caesar's political career and to pay off his massive debts. Still, Gaul was of significant military importance to the Romans, as they had been attacked several times by native tribes both indigenous to Gaul and farther to the north. Conquering Gaul allowed Rome to secure the natural border of the river Rhine.[13]

    The wars began with conflict over the migration of the Helvetii in 58 BC, which would draw in neighboring tribes and the Germanic Suebi as well. By 57 BC, Caesar had resolved to conquer all of Gaul, and led campaigns in the east, where he was nearly defeated by the Nervii. In 56 BC, Caesar defeated the Veneti in a naval battle and took most of northwest Gaul. In 55 BC, Caesar sought to boost his public image, and undertook first of their kind expeditions across the Rhine river and English Channel. Upon his return from Britain, Caesar was hailed as a hero, though he had achieved little beyond landing because his army had been too small. The next year, he went back with a proper army and conquered much of Britain. However, tribes began to rise up on the continent, and the Romans suffered several humiliating defeats. 53 BC saw a draconian campaign against the Gauls to attempt to pacify them. This failed, and the Gauls rose up in mass revolt under leadership of Vercingetorix in 52 BC. The Gauls won a notable victory at the Battle of Gergovia, but were utterly defeated by the Roman's indomitable siege works at the Battle of Alesia.

    In 51 BC and 50 BC, there was little resistance, and Caesar's troops mostly were mopping up. Gaul was conquered, although it would not become a Roman province until 27 BC, and resistance would continue as late as 70 AD. There is no clear end-date for the war, but the imminent Roman Civil War led to the pulling out of Caesar's troops in 50 BC. Caesar's wild successes in the war had made him extremely wealthy, and provided a legendary reputation. The Gallic Wars were a key factor in Caesar's ability to win the Civil War and declare himself dictator, in what would eventually lead to the end of the Roman Republic and the establishment of the Roman Empire.

    The Gallic Wars are described by Julius Caesar in his book Commentarii de Bello Gallico, which is the main source for the conflict but is considered to be unreliable at best by modern historians. Caesar and his contemporaries makes impossible claims about the number of Gauls killed (over a million), while claiming almost zero Roman casualties. Modern historians believe that Gallic forces were far smaller than claimed by the Romans, and that the Romans actually suffered tens of thousands of casualties. Historian David Henige regards the entire account as clever propaganda meant to boost Caesar's image, and suggests that it is of minimal historical accuracy. The campaign was still exceptionally brutal, and untold numbers of Gauls were killed or enslaved, including large numbers of non-combatants.


    A battle scene from a Roman sarcophagus. Dallas Museum of Art, c. 190 A.D.[14]


    The countries of Gaul were civilized and wealthy. Most had contact with Roman merchants and some, particularly those that were governed by republics such as the Aedui, had enjoyed stable political alliances with Rome in the past. During the first century, parts of Gaul were becoming urbanized, which concentrated wealth and population centers, inadvertently making Roman conquest easier.[15] Though the Romans considered the Gaul to be barbarians, their cities mirrored those of the Mediterranean, they struck coins, and traded extensively with Rome, providing iron, grain, and a large amount of slaves. In exchange, the Gauls accumulated much wealth and developed a taste for Roman wine. The contemporary writer Diodoros explains that part of the conception of barbarity was because the Gauls drank their wine straight, unlike the supposedly civilized Romans who watered their wine down first. However, the Romans realized that the Gauls were a powerful fighting force, and considered some of the most "barbaric" tribes to be the fiercest warriors, as they were uncorrupted by Roman luxuries.[16]

    The Romans respected and feared the Gallic tribes. In 390 BC, the Gauls had sacked Rome, which left an existential dread of barbarian conquest that was never forgotten. In 121 BC, Rome decisively defeated a group of southern Gauls, and established the province of Transalpine Gaul in the conquered lands.[17] Only 50 years before the Gallic Wars, in 109 BC, Italy had been invaded from the north and saved only after several bloody and costly battles by Gaius Marius. Around 62 BC, when a Roman client state, the Arverni, conspired with the Sequani and the Suebi nations east of the Rhine to attack the Aedui, a strong Roman ally, Rome turned a blind eye. The Sequani and the Arverni sought Ariovistus's aid and defeated the Aedui in 63 BC at the Battle of Magetobriga. The Sequani rewarded Ariovistus with land after his victory.[18][19][20] Ariovistus settled the land with 120,000 of his people. When 24,000 Harudes joined his cause, Ariovistus demanded that the Sequani give him more land to accommodate the Harudes people.[19] The demand concerned Rome because if the Sequani conceded, Ariovistus would be in a position to take all of the Sequani land and attack the rest of Gaul.[19] They did not appear to be concerned about a conflict among non-client, client and allied states. By the end of the campaign, the non-client Suebi, under the leadership of the belligerent Ariovistus, stood triumphant over both the Aedui and their coconspirators. Fearing another mass migration akin to the devastating Cimbrian War, Rome, now keenly invested in the defense of Gaul, was irrevocably drawn into war.[citation needed]


    The Gauls and the Romans had significantly differing military strategies. The Roman army was a professional army that was kept standing between conflicts, armed and outfitted by the state, and extremely disciplined. However, the professional army consisted mostly of heavy infantry, and any auxiliary units such as cavalry were fielded from the less disciplined Roman allies, which as the war progressed would include some Gauls. By comparison, the Gauls were an irregular fighting force, and were less disciplined. The outfitting of Gauls was done by the individual, and thus wealthy Gauls were well equipped and rivaled the Roman soldiers, but the average warrior was poorly equipped compared to a Roman. All of this was not inherently bad however, as the Gauls were a warrior culture unlike the Romans. They prized acts of bravery and individual courage, and frequent raiding of neighboring tribes kept fighting skills sharp. Compared to the Romans, the Gauls carried longer swords, and had far superior cavalry. The Gauls were generally taller than the Romans (a fact the Romans seem to have been embarrassed about), and combined with their longer swords gave them a reach advantage in combat. Both sides used archers and slingers, though little is known about the Gallic battle strategy and thus their effectiveness is unknown. What is known about battle strategy indicates that it varied between tribe, although engaging in pitched battle was frequent to prove bravery. Not all tribes engaged the Romans directly, as the Romans were a formidable enemy, and thus guerilla tactics were frequent. While the Gauls had much more flair in combat (such as fighting in intricately decorated armor, or even in the nude), the superior discipline and formation of the Romans combined with uniformly excellent equipment generally gave the Romans an advantage in hand to hand fighting.[21]

    Julius Caesar[edit]

    As a result of the financial burdens of his consulship in 59 BC, Julius Caesar incurred significant debts. In order to strengthen Rome's position among the Gauls, he had paid substantial money to king Ariovistus of the Suebi to cement an alliance.[22][23] However, through his influence via the First Triumvirate, the political alliance which comprised Marcus Licinius Crassus, Pompey and himself, Caesar had secured during his consulship his assignment as proconsul to two provinces, Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum, by passage of the lex Vatinia.[22] When the governor of Transalpine Gaul, Metellus Celer, died unexpectedly, the province was also awarded to Caesar at the suggestion of Pompey and Caesar's father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus.[24] In the law granting him command of the provinces, Caesar was given a five-year term as governor.[24]

    Caesar had initially four veteran legions under his direct command: Legio VII, Legio VIII, Legio IX Hispana, and Legio X. As he had been governor of Hispania Ulterior in 61 BC and had campaigned successfully with them against the Lusitanians, Caesar knew personally most, perhaps even all, of the legions.[citation needed] Caesar also had the legal authority to levy additional legions and auxiliary units as he saw fit. The assignment of the provinces that comprise what is now Northern Italy was also helpful to his ambitions: the Po Valley and the adjoining regions had large numbers of Roman citizens, who could be enticed to sign up for legionary service.[24]

    His ambition was to conquer and plunder some territories to get himself out of debt, and it is possible that Gaul was not his initial target. It is more likely that he was planning a campaign against the Kingdom of Dacia in the Balkans.[25][better source needed] However, the mass migration of Gauls in 58 BC provided a convenient casus belli, and Caesar prepared for war.[23]


    A map of Gaul in the 1st century BC, showing the relative positions of the Helvetii and the Sequani

    Beginning of the war—campaign against the Helvetii[edit]

    The Helvetii was a confederation of about five related Gallic tribes that lived on the Swiss plateau, hemmed in by the mountains as well as the Rhine and Rhone rivers. They had come under increased pressure from German tribes to the north and east, and started planning for a migration around 61 BC. They planned to travel across Gaul to the west coast, a route that would have taken them through lands of the Aedui (a Roman ally) and the Roman province of Transalpine Gaul. A plot by the aristocrat Orgetorix to seize power among the tribes during the migration was discovered, and Orgetorix committed suicide; this did not end up delaying the migration. As word of the migration spread, neighboring tribes grew concerned, and Rome sent ambassadors to several tribes to convince them against joining the Helvetii. Concern grew in Rome as well, as it was feared that Germanic tribes would fill in the lands vacated by the Helvetii, and the Romans much preferred Gauls to Germans as neighbors. The consuls of 60 and 59 BC both wanted to lead a campaign against the Gauls while consul, though neither did.[26]

    On the 28th of March in 58 BC, the Helvetii began their migration, bringing along all their peoples and livestock. They burned their villages and stores to ensure that the migration could not be reversed. Upon reaching Transalpine Gaul, of whom Caesar was governor, they asked permission to cross the lands of Rome. Caesar entertained the request, but ultimately denied it. The Gauls instead turned north, entirely avoiding Roman lands. The threat to Rome was seemingly over, but Caesar instead led his army over the border and attacked the Helvetii unprovoked. So began what historian Kate Gilliver describes as "an aggressive war of expansion led by a general who was seeking to advance his career".[26]

    Caesar's consideration of the Gallic request to enter Rome was not indecision, but rather a play for time. Caesar was in Rome when news of the migration arrived, and he rushed to Transalpine Gaul at speed, though he did raise two legions and some auxiliaries on his way. He delivered the refusal to the Gauls, and then promptly returned to Italy to gather the legions he raised along his previous trip and gather three veteran legions. At this point, Caesar had between 24,000 and 30,000 legionary troops, and some quantity of auxiliaries, many of whom were themselves Gauls. He marched north to the river Saône, where he caught the Helvetii in the middle of crossing. Some three-quarters had crossed, but he slaughtered those who had not. Caesar then crossed the river in one day using a pontoon bridge. Next, he followed the Helvetii, but refused to engage in combat, waiting for ideal conditions. Negotiations were attempted, but Caesar's terms were draconian (likely on purpose, as Caesar may have used it as another delaying tactic). Caesar's supplies ran thin on June 20 and he was forced to travel towards allied territory in Bibracte, as while his army had easily crossed the Saône, his supply train had not. The Helvetii used this moment to attack Caesar's rearguard.[27]

    Battle of Bibracte[edit]

    Map of the Gallic Wars

    In the ensuing Battle of Bibracte, the Celts and Romans fought for the better part of the day in a hotly contested battle with the Romans eventually gaining victory. Caesar set up his legions on a sloped hill, which put the Gauls at a disadvantage as they had to fight uphill. The Helvetii started the battle with a probable feint, which the Romans easily repulsed. However, the Boii and Tulingi allies then outmaneuvered the Romans and attacked their right flank. At this point the Romans were surrounded. A heated battle ensued. The last line of the legions were ordered to turn their backs around, and thus fought on two fronts instead of just being attacked in the rear, which Gilliver describes as a brilliant tactical decision. Eventually the Helvetii routed and fled, and the now outnumbered Boii and Tulingi were chased back to their encampments, where the fighters as well as the women and children were slain.[27]

    Caesar's army rested for three days to tend to the wounded. They then gave chase to the Helvetii, whom surrendered. Caesar ordered them back on their lands to provide a buffer between Rome and the even more feared Germanic tribes.[27] In the captured Helvetian camp Caesar claims that a census written in Greek was found and studied: of a grand total of 368,000 Helvetii, of which 92,000 were able-bodied men, only 110,000 survivors were left to return home.[28] (See historiography section below for a more modern accounting of numbers).

    Campaign against the Suebi[edit]

    Caesar then turned his attention to the Aedui, whom he also wished to conquer. However, they were Roman allies, and thus Caesar needed a convincing casus belli to betray them.[29]

    In 61 BC, Ariovistus, chieftain of the Suebi tribe and a king from the Germanic peoples, resumed the tribe's migration from eastern Germania to the Marne and Rhine region.[30] Despite the fact that this migration encroached on Sequani land, the Sequani sought Ariovistus’ allegiance against the Aedui and, in 61 BC, the Sequani rewarded Ariovistus with land following his victory in the Battle of Magetobriga.[31][32][33] Ariovistus settled the land with 120,000 of his people. When 24,000 Harudes joined his cause, Ariovistus demanded that the Sequani give him more land to accommodate the Harudes people.[34][35] This demand 'concerned' Rome because if the Sequani conceded, Ariovistus would be in a position to take all of the Sequani land and attack the rest of Gaul.[34]

    Following Caesar’s victory over the Helvetii, the majority of the Gallic tribes congratulated Caesar and sought to meet with him in a general assembly.[36] Diviciacus, the head of the Aeduan government and spokesmen for the Gallic delegation, expressed concern over Ariovistus’ conquests and the hostages he had taken.[37][38] Diviciacus demanded that Caesar defeat Ariovistus and remove the threat of a Germanic invasion otherwise they would have to seek refuge in a new land.[39] Not only did Caesar have a responsibility to protect the longstanding allegiance of the Aedui, but this proposition presented an opportunity to expand Rome’s borders, strengthen the loyalty within Caesar’s army and establish him as the commander of Rome’s troops abroad.[38][40]

    The senate had declared Ariovistus a "king and friend of the Roman people" in 59 BC, so Caesar could not declare war on the Suebi tribe.[41] Caesar said that he could not ignore the pain the Aedui had suffered and delivered an ultimatum to Ariovistus demanding that no German cross the Rhine, the return of Aedui hostages and the protection of the Aedui and other friends of Rome.[42] Although Ariovistus assured Caesar that the Aedui hostages would be safe as long as they continued their yearly tribute, he took the position that he and the Romans were both conquerors and that Rome had no jurisdiction over his actions.[43] With the attack of the Harudes on the Aedui and the report that a hundred clans of Suebi were trying to cross the Rhine into Gaul, Caesar had the justification he needed to wage war against Ariovistus in 58 BC.[44]

    Caesar, learning that Ariovistus intended to seize Vesontio, the largest town of the Sequani, commenced marching his troops toward Vesontio. Some of Caesar's officers held their posts for political reasons only and had no war experience. Consequently, they suffered from poor morale which threatened Caesar's campaign. Caesar challenged the officers and their legions, saying that the only legion he could trust was the 10th. With their pride on the line, the other legions followed the 10th's lead, determined not to be outdone. Consequently, Caesar arrived in Vesontio before Ariovistus.[45][46]

    Ariovistus sent emissaries to Caesar requesting a meeting. They met under a truce at a knoll on the plain. The truce was violated when Caesar learned that German horsemen were edging towards the knoll and throwing stones at his mounted escort.[47] Two days later, Ariovistus requested another meeting. Hesitant to send senior officials, Caesar dispatched Valerius Procillus, his trusted friend, and Caius Mettius, a merchant who had successfully traded with Ariovistus. Insulted, Ariovistus threw the envoys in chains.[48][49] Ariovistus marched for two days and made camp two miles behind Caesar, thus cutting off Caesar’s communication and supply lines with the allied tribes. Unable to entice Ariovistus into battle, Caesar ordered a second smaller camp to be built near Ariovistus’ position.[50] After the camp was completed, Caesar again challenged Ariovistus and was rewarded when Ariovistus attacked the smaller camp and was repulsed.[citation needed]

    The next morning Caesar assembled his allied troops in front of the second camp and advanced his legions in triplex acies (three lines of troops) towards Ariovistus. Each of Caesar's five legates and his quaestor were given command of a legion. Caesar lined up on the right flank.[51] Ariovistus countered by lining up his seven tribal formations. Caesar was victorious in the battle that ensued due in large part to the charge made by Publius Crassus. As the Germans began to drive back the Roman left flank, Crassus led his cavalry in a charge to restore balance and ordered up the cohorts of the third line. As a result, the whole German line broke and began to flee.[52][53] Caesar claims that most of Ariovistus’ one-hundred and twenty thousand men were killed. He and what remained of his troops escaped and crossed the Rhine, never to engage Rome in battle again. The Suebi camping near the Rhine returned home. Caesar was victorious.[54][55] In one year he had defeated two of Rome's most feared enemies. After this busy campaigning season, he returned home to Transalpine Gaul to deal with the non-military aspects of his governorship. At this point it is possible he had already decided that he would conquer all of Gaul.[56]

    57 BC: Campaigns in the east[edit]

    Caesar's stunning victories in 58 BC had unsettled the Gallic tribes. Many rightly predicted that Caesar would seek to conquer all of Gaul, and some sought alliance with Rome. As the campaigning season of 57 BC dawned, both sides were busy raising new soldiers. Caesar set off on the season with two more legions than the year before, with a total of 32,000 to 40,000 men, along with a contingent of auxiliaries. The exact number of men raised by the Gauls is unknown, but Caesar claims he would fight 200,000.[57]

    Caesar once again intervened in an intra-Gallic conflict, marching against the Belgae, who inhabited the area roughly bounded by modern-day Belgium. The Belgae had recently attacked a tribe allied with Rome and before marching out with his army to meet them, Caesar ordered the Remi and other neighboring Gauls to investigate the Belgae's actions.[58] The Belgae and Romans encountered each other near Bibrax. The Belgae attempted to take the fortified oppidum from the Remi, but were unable and instead chose to raid the nearby countryside. Each side tried to avoid battle, as both were short on supplies (a continuing theme for Caesar, who often was faster than his own baggage train). Caesar ordered fortifications built, which the Belgae understood would give them a disadvantage. Instead of making battle, the Belgic army simply disbanded, as it could be re-assembled easily.[57]

    Caesar realized that an opportunity was presenting itself: if he could beat the men from the army home, he could take their lands with ease. The travel speed of his armies proved to be a crucial aspect in his ensuing victories. He rushed to the Suessiones oppidum at what is now Villeneuve-Saint-Germain, and laid siege to the settlement. The Belgic army nullified Caesar's advantage by sneaking back into the city under cover of darkness. The Roman siege preparations proved to be the decisive factor: grand Roman-style siege warfare was unknown to the Gauls, and the might of the Roman's preparations drove the Gauls to surrender promptly. This had a ripple effect: the nearby Bellovaci and Ambiones surrendered promptly after realizing the Romans had defeated a powerful army without even entering combat. Not all tribes were so cowed however. The Nervii allied with the Atrebates and Viromandui, and planned to ambush the Romans. The ensuing battle of the Sabis was nearly a humiliating defeat for Caesar, and the Roman victory was very hard won.[57]

    Nervii ambush—battle of the Sabis[edit]

    A map of Gaul showing all the tribes and cities mentioned in the Gallic Wars

    The Nervii set an ambush along the river Sambre, lying in wait for the Romans. The Romans arrived and started setting a camp, but detected the Nervii. The battle began with the Romans sending a light cavalry and infantry force across the river to keep the Nervii at bay while the main force fortified. The Nervii easily repulsed the attack. In an uncharacteristic move for Caesar, he made a serious tactical error by not setting up an infantry screen to protect the entrenching force. The Nervii took ample advantage of this, and their entire host crossed the river at speed and caught the Romans off-guard and unprepared. As the battle began, two legions had not even arrived, whereas the Nervii had at least 60,000 fighters.[57]

    The Roman's superior discipline and experience came in much use. Instead of panicking as they had against Ariovistus the year before, the Romans quickly formed lines of battle. The center and left wing of the Romans were successful, and chased the Atrebates across the river. However, this left the half built camp exposed, and the Gauls easily took the camp. To make matters worse for the Romans, the right wing was in serious trouble. It had been outflanked, its line of battle had become too tight to swing a sword, and multiple officers were dead. The situation was so critical that Caesar himself took up his shield and joined the front line of the legion. Caesar's mere presence greatly increased morale, and he ordered the men to form a defensive square to open up the ranks and protect from all sides. What turned the tide of battle was Caesar's reinforcements, in the form of the X legion which returned from chasing the Atrebates, and the two straggler legions who finally arrived. The strong stand by the X legion and the prompt arrival of reinforcements enabled Caesar to regroup, redeploy and eventually repulse the Nervii once the Atrebates and Viromandui were put to flight.[57]

    Caesar's cockiness had nearly ended in his defeat, but the experience of the legions combined with his personal role in combat turned a disaster into an incredible victory. The Belgae were broken, and most of the German tribes offered submission to Rome. The end of the campaigning season saw Caesar take care of tribes along the Atlantic coast, and deal with the Atuatuci, who were allies of the Nervii, but had broken the terms of surrender. Caesar punished this by selling 53,000 Atuatuci into slavery. The profits were by law Caesar's alone. Caesar saw a minor setback towards winter as he sent one of his officers to the Great St Bernard Pass, where local tribes fought back fiercely; the campaign was abandoned. But overall, Caesar had seen monumental success in 57 BC. He had accumulated great wealth to pay off his debts and increased his stature to heroic levels. Upon his return, the senate granted him a 15-day thanksgiving (supplicatio), longer than any before. His political reputation was now formidable. Again, he returned to Transalpine Gaul for the winter to see to the civil affairs of the province. His troops were wintered in northern Gaul, where the tribes were forced to quarter and feed them.[57]

    56 BC: Campaign against the Veneti[edit]

    The Gauls were embittered by having to feed the Roman troops over the winter. As the Romans sent out officers to requisition grain from the Veneti, a group of tribes in northwest Gaul, the Veneti had other ideas and captured the officers. This was a calculated move: they certainly knew this would anger Rome, and prepared by allying with the tribes of Armorica, fortifying their hill settlements, and preparing a fleet. The Veneti and the other peoples along the Atlantic coast were versed in sailing, and had vessels that were well suited to the rough waters of the Atlantic. By comparison, the Romans were hardly prepared for naval warfare on the open ocean. Rome was a feared naval power in the Mediterranean, but there the oceans were calm, and ships could be built flimsier. Regardless, the Romans understood that to defeat the Veneti they would need a fleet: many of the Venetic settlements were isolated and best accessible by sea.[59]

    Caesar wished to sail as soon as the weather would permit, and ordered new boats and recruited oarsmen from the already conquered regions of Gaul to ensure the fleet would be ready as soon as possible. The legions were dispatched by land, but not as a single unit. Gilliver regards this as evidence that Caesar's claims the prior year that Gaul was at peace were untrue, as the legions were apparently being dispatched to prevent or deal with rebellion. A cavalry force was sent to hold down the Germans and the Belgic tribes. Troops under Crassus was sent to Aquitania, and Quintus Titurius Sabinus took forces to Normandy. The remaining four legions were led by Caesar, and were sent by land to meet up with his recently raised fleet near the mouth of the Loire river.[59]

    The Veneti held the upper hand for much of the campaign. Their ships were well suited to the region, and when their hill forts were under siege, they could simply evacuate them by sea. The less sturdy Roman fleet was stuck in harbor for much of the campaign. Despite having the superior army, and great siege equipment, the Romans were making little progress. Caesar realized that a battle by sea would be necessary, and thus the campaign halted until the seas calmed.[59]

    Battle of Morbihan[edit]

    Battle of Morbihan (in Italian, Rome is in Red, Veneti in Green)

    At last, the Roman fleet sailed, and encountered the Venetic fleet off the coast of Brittany in the Gulf of Morbihan, and engaged in a battle that lasted from late in the morning until sundown. On paper, the Veneti appeared to have the superior fleet. Their sturdy oak beam construction meant they were effectively immune to ramming, and their high profile protected their occupants from projectiles. The Veneti also had sails, whereas the Romans relied on oarsmen. The Veneti had some 220 ships, although Gilliver notes many were likely not much more than fishing boats. The number of Roman ships is not reported by Caesar. But the Romans had one advantage: grappling hooks. This allowed them to shred the rigging and sails of ships who got close enough, which rendered the Venetic ships sitting ducks. The hooks also allowed them to pull ships close enough to board. The Veneti realized that the grappling hooks were an existensial threat, and retreated. However, the wind dropped, and the Roman fleet (who did not rely on sails) was able to catch up. The Romans were able to now use their superior soldiers to board ships en masse, and picked the Gauls off leisurely. Just as the Romans had beaten the superior forces of Carthage in the First Punic War by using the corvus, a simple technological advantage allowed them to beat the superior Venetic fleet.[59][60][61]

    The Veneti, now without a navy, had been bested. They surrendered, and Caesar made an example of the tribal elders by executing them. The rest of the Veneti were sold into slavery. Caesar now turned his attention to the Morini and Menapii along the coast.[59][60]

    Caesar's subordinates and mopping up[edit]

    During the Venetic campaign, Caesar's subordinates had been busy pacifying Normandy and Aquitania. A coalition of Lexovii, Coriosolites, and Venelli charged Sabinus while he was entrenched atop a hill. This was a poor tactical move on the part of the tribes, as by the time the reached the top of the hill they were exhausted, and Sabinus defeated them with ease. The tribes consequently surrendered, yielding up all of Normandy to the Romans. Crassus did not have such an easy time in facing the Aquitania. With only one legion and some cavalry, he was outnumbered. He raised additional forces from Provence, and marched south to what is now the border of modern Spain and France. He fought off the Sotiates along the way, who attacked while the Romans were marching. The Vocates and Tarusates proved a tougher task. Having allied with the rebel Roman general Quintus Sertorius during his uprising in 70 BC, these tribes were well versed in Roman combat, and had learned from the guerilla tactics of the war. They avoided frontal battle, and harassed supply lines and the marching Romans. Crassus realized he would have to force battle, and located the Gallic encampment of some 50,000. However, the camp was only fortified at the front, and Crassus thus circled the camp and attacked the rear. The Gauls were taken by surprise, and attempted to flee. However, Crassus' cavalry pursued those who fled. According to Crassus, only 12,000 survived the overwhelming Roman victory. The tribes surrendered, and Rome now controlled most of southwest Gaul.[59]

    Caesar finished up the campaign season by trying to take out the coastal tribes who had allied with the Veneti. However, the tribes outmaneuvered the Romans. Due to superior knowledge of the local terrain (which was heavily forested and marshy), and a strategy of withdrawing into that terrain, they avoided battle with the Romans. Poor weather worsened the situation, and Caesar could do little more than raid the countryside. Realizing he would not meet the Gauls in battle, he withdrew for the winter. This was a setback for Caesar, as not pacifying the tribes would slow his campaigns the next year. The legions overwintered between the Saône and Loire rivers on the lands which he had conquered during the year. This was his punishment to the tribes for having fought against the Romans.[59]

    55 BC: Crossing the Rhine and the English Channel[edit]

    Caesar's Rhine Bridge, by John Soane (1814)

    Caesar's campaigns in 55 were likely determined less by tactical concerns than by a need for prestige. Pompey and Crassus were the Consuls of 55. While they were Caesar's political allies, and Crassus had fought under him the year before, they were also his rivals. Since the consuls could easily sway and buy public opinion, Caesar needed to stay in the public eye. His solution was to cross two water bodies no Roman army had before: the Rhine and the English Channel. Crossing the Rhine was a consequence of Germanic/Celtic unrest. The Celtic Usipetes and Tencteri had recently been forced out of their lands by the Suebi, and had crossed the Rhine in search of a new home. Caesar however had previously denied their request to settle in Gaul, and the issue turned to war. The Celtic tribes sent out a cavalry force of 800 against a Roman auxiliary force of 5,000 (that was actually made up of Gauls), and won a surprising victory. Caesar responded by attacking the Celtic camp, and slaughtering the men, women, and children. Caesar claims he killed 430,000 in the camp. Modern historians greatly dispute this number (see historiography below), but it is apparent that Caesar killed a great many Celts. So cruel were his actions, his enemies in the Senate wished to prosecute him for war crimes once his tenure as governor was up and he was no longer immune from prosecution. After the massacre, Caesar led the first Roman army across the Rhine in a lightning campaign that lasted just 18 days.[62]

    Gilliver considers all of the actions of 55 to be a "publicity stunt", and thus suggests that Caesar's continuation of the Celtic/Germanic campaign to be based on a desire to gain prestige. This also explains the short timespan of the campaign. Caesar wanted to impress the Romans and scare the Germans, and he did this by crossing the Rhine in style. Instead of using boats or pontoons as he had in earlier campaigns, he built a bridge out of timbers in a mere ten days. He walked across, raided the Suebic countryside, and retreated across the bridge before the Seubic army could mobilize. He then burned the bridge, and turned his attentions to another feat no Roman army had accomplished before: landing in Britain. The nominal reason to attack Britain was that the British tribes had been assisting the Gauls, but like most of Caesar's casus belli it was just an excuse to gain glory.[62]

    Illustration of the Romans landing in Britain, featuring the standard bearer of the X legion

    Caesar's trip into Britain was less invasion than expedition. He took only two legions, and his cavalry auxiliaries were unable to make the crossing despite several attempts. Caesar crossed late in the season, and in great haste, leaving well after midnight on August 23.[63][62] He initially planned to land somewhere in Kent, but the British were waiting for him. He moved up the coast and landed (modern archeological finds suggest at Pegwell Bay[64]), but the British had kept pace and fielded an impressive force, including cavalry and chariots. The British adventure nearly ended in defeat when bad weather wrecked much of their fleet and the unfamiliar sight of massed chariots of the Britons caused confusion among their forces.[citation needed] The legions were hesitant to go ashore. Eventually, the standard bearer of the X legion jumped into the sea and waded to land. To have the legion's standard fall in combat was the greatest humiliation, and thus the legion disembarked to protect the standard bearer. After some delay, a battle line was finally formed, and the British withdrew. Because the Roman cavalry had not made the crossing, Caesar could not chase down the British. The Roman's luck did not improve, and a Roman supply party was ambushed. The British took this as a sign of Roman weakness, and amassed a large force to assault the Romans. A short battle ensued, though Caesar provides no details beyond that the Romans prevailed. Again, the lack of cavalry to chase down the fleeing British prevented a decisive victory. The campaigning season was now close to over, and the legions were in no condition to winter on the coast of Kent. Caesar chose to withdraw back across the Channel.[62]

    Gilliver notes that Caesar once again narrowly escaped disaster. Taking an understrength army with few provisions to a far-off land was a poor tactical decision, which could have easily led to Caesar's defeat. Yet he lived to tell the tale, and while he had achieved no significant gains in Britain, he had achieved a monumental feat in its own right by simply landing in Britain. Caesar's goal of prestige and publicity succeeded enormously: upon his return to Rome he was hailed as a hero and given a 20 day thanksgiving. He now began planning for a proper invasion of Britain.[62]

    54 BC: Invading Britain, unrest in Gaul[edit]

    Caesar's approach towards Britain in 54 was far more comprehensive and successful. New ships had been built over the winter, and Caesar now took 5 legions and 2,000 cavalry. The rest of his army was left in Gaul to keep order. Gilliver notes that Caesar took with him a good number of Gallic chiefs whom he considered untrustworthy, a further sign that Gaul had not been comprehensively conquered. This would be further evidenced by a series of revolts in Gaul late in the year.[65]

    Caesar landed without resistance, and immediately went to find the British army. The British however used guerilla tactics to avoid a direct confrontation. This allowed the British to gather a formidable army under Cassivellaunus, king of the Catuvellauni. The British army had superior mobility due to its cavalry and chariots, which allowed them to easily evade and harass the Romans. The British attacked a foraging party, hoping to pick off the isolated group. But the party fought back fiercely, and thoroughly defeated the British. The British mostly gave up resistance at this point, and a great many tribes surrendered and offered tribute. Caesar assaulted Cassivellanus' stronghold (likely modern day Wheathampstead), and Cassivellanus surrendered. Caesar extracted payment of grain, slaves, and an annual tribute to Rome. However, Britain was not particularly rich at the time; Marcus Cicero summed up Roman sentiment by saying "Its also been established that there isn't a scrap of silver in the island and no hope of booty except for slaves – and I don't suppose you're expecting them to know much about literature or music!" Regardless, this second trip to Britain was a true invasion, and Caesar achieved his goals. He had beaten the British, extracted tribute, and they were now effectively Roman subjects. Caesar was lenient towards the tribes as he needed to leave before the stormy season set in, which would make crossing the channel impossible.[65]

    Revolts in Gaul[edit]

    Things did not run so smoothly back on the continent during 54. Harvests had failed in Gaul that year, but Caesar still wintered his legions in Gaul, and expected the Gauls to feed his troops. He did at least realize harvests had failed, and spread his troops out so that they would not burden one tribe overwhelmingly. But this isolated his legions, making them easier to attack. Gallic anger boiled over shortly after the legions made camp for the winter, and tribes rose up in rebellion.[65]

    The Eburones, under the competent Ambiorix, had been forced to winter a legion and five cohorts under Quintus Titurius Sabinus and Lucius Aurunculeius Cotta. Ambiorix attacked the Roman camp, and told Sabinus (falsely) that all of Gaul was under revolt and that the Germanic tribes were invading too, but that he would give safe passage to the Romans if they abandoned their camp and returned to Rome. In what Gilliver describes as an incredibly foolish move, Sabinus believed Ambiorix. As soon as Sabinus left the camp, his forces were ambushed in a steep valley. Sabinus had not chosen an appropriate formation for the terrain, and the green troops panicked. The Gauls won decisively, both Sabinus and Cotta were killed, and only a handful of Romans survived.[65]

    The total defeat of Sabinus spread revolutionary fervor, and the Atuatuci, Nervii, and their allies rose up. They chose to attack the camp of Quintus Cicero (brother to Marcus Cicero, the famed orator). They too tried to tell Cicero the story that Ambiorix had told Sabinus, but Cicero was not as gullible as Sabinus. Cicero fortified the camp's defenses and attempted to get a messenger to Caesar. The Gauls began a fierce siege. Having previously captured a number of Roman troops as prisoners, the Gauls used the knowledge of the Romans to build siege towers and earthworks. They then assaulted the Romans nearly continuously for more than two weeks. Cicero's message finally reached Caesar, and Caesar immediately took two legions and cavalry to relieve the siege. Caesar's forces went on a forced march through the lands of the Nervii, making some 20 miles a day. Caesar defeated the 60,000 strong Gallic army, and finally rescued Cicero's legion. The siege had killed some 90% of Cicero's men. Caesar's praise of Cicero's tenacity was unending.[65]

    53 BC: Surpressing unrest[edit]

    Roman silver denarius with the head of captive Gaul 48 BC, following the campaigns of Caesar

    The winter uprising of 54 had been a fiasco for the Romans. One legion had been entirely lost, and another decimated. The revolts had also shown that the Romans were not truly in command of Gaul. Caesar thus set out on a campaign to truly subjugate the Gauls and forestall future resistance. Down to seven legions, he needed more men. Two more legions were recruited, and one was borrowed from Pompey. The Romans now had 40–50,000 men. Caesar started the brutal campaign early, before the weather had warmed. He assaulted the Nervii, and focused his energy on raiding: burning villages, stealing livestock, and taking prisoners. This strategy worked, and the Nervii promptly surrendered. The legions returned to their wintering spots until the campaign season started fully. Once the weather warmed, Caesar pulled a surprise attack on the Senones. Having had no time to prepare for a siege or even withdraw to their oppidum, the Senones also surrendered. Attention turned to the Menapii, where Caesar followed the same strategy of raiding he had used on the Nervii. It worked just as well on the Menapii, who surrendered as well.[66]

    Caesar's legions had been split up to put down more tribes, and his lieutenant Titus Labienus had with him 25 cohorts and a good deal of Calvary in the lands of the Treveri. The Germanic tribes had promised aid to the Treveri, and Labienus realized that his force (not even a legion strong) would be at a serious disadvantage. Thus he sought to bait the Treveri into an attack on his terms. He did just so by feinting a withdrawal, and the Treveri took the bait. However, Labienus had made sure to feint up a hill, requiring the Treveri to run up the hill. By the time they reached the top, they were exhausted, and Labienus dropped the pretense of withdrawing and gave battle. The Treveri were defeated in minutes, and the tribe surrendered shortly after. In the rest of Belgium, three legions raided the remaining tribes and forced widespread surrender, including from the Eburones under Ambiorix.[66] The rest of 53 BC was occupied with a punitive campaign against the Eburones and their allies, who were said to have been all but exterminated by the Romans.[citation needed]

    Caesar now sought to punish the Germans for daring to help the Gauls. He took his legions over the Rhine once more by building a bridge. But once again, Caesar's supplies failed him, and he was forced to withdraw, lest he engage the still mighty Suebi while short on supplies. Regardless, Caesar had exacted widespread surrender through a viscous retaliatory campaign that focused on destruction over battle. At the end of the year, six legions were wintered on the land of the Senones, two on the lands of the Treveri, and two on the land of the Lingones. Caesar aimed to prevent a repeat of the previous disastrous winter, but this ultimately did little to stop rebellion.[66]

    52 BC: Vercingetorix's revolt[edit]

    Vercingétorix Memorial in Alesia, where he would make his last stand

    Gallic existential concerns came to a head in 52 and caused the widespread revolt the Romans had long feared. The campaigns of 53 had particularly harsh, and the Gauls feared for their prosperity. But previously, the Gauls had not been united, which had made them easy to conquer. But this changed in 53, when Caesar had effectively declared Gaul a Roman province. This was a subject of immense concern for the Gauls, who feared the Romans would destroy the Gallic holy land, which the Carnutes watched over. Each year the druids met there to mediate between the tribes on the lands considered the center of Gaul. A threat to their sacred lands was an issue that finally united the Gauls. Under the charismatic Arvenian Vercingetorix, a grand coalition of Gauls was assembled over the winter.[67]

    Caesar was still in Rome when news of the revolt reached him. He rushed north in attempt to prevent the revolt from spreading, heading first to Provence to see to its defense, and then to Agedincum to counter the Gallic forces. Caesar took a winding route to the Gallic army to capture several oppidium for supplies. Vercingetorix was forced to withdraw from his siege of the Boii (allied to Rome) capital of Gorgobina. However, it was still winter, and Vercingetorix realized the reason Caesar had detoured was that the Romans were low on supplies. Thus Vercingetorix set out a strategy to starve the Romans. Vercingetorix avoided attacking the Romans outright, and instead raided foraging parties and supply trains. Vercingetorix abondoned a great many oppidum, seeking to only defend the strongest, and to ensure the others and their supplies could not fall into Roman hands. Once again, Caesar's hand was forced by a lack of supplies, and he sieged the oppidum of Avaricum where Vercingetorix had pulled back to.[67]

    Vercingetorix had originally been opposed to defending Avaricum, but the Bituriges Cubi had persuaded him otherwise. The Gallic army was camped outside the settlement. Even while defending, Vercingetorix wished to abandon the siege and outrun the Romans. But the warriors of Avaricum were unwilling to leave it. Upon Caesar's arrival, he promptly began construction of a defensive fortification. The Gauls continuously harassed the Romans and their foraging parties while they built their camp, and attempted to burn it down. But not even the fierce winter weather could stop the Romans, and a very sturdy camp was built in just 25 days. Siege engines were built, and Caesar waited for an oppurtunity to attack the heavily fortified oppidum. He chose to attack during a rainstorm, where the sentries were distracted. Siege towers were used to assault the fort, and artillery battered the walls. Eventually, the artillery broke a hole in the wall, and the Gauls were unable to stop the Romans from taking the settlement. The Romans then looted and raped Avaricum; Caesar took no prisoners and claims the Romans slew 40,000. That the Gallic coalition did not fall apart after this defeat is a testament to the leadership of Vercingetorix. Even after the loss of Avaricum, the Aedui were willing to revolt and join the coalition. This was yet another setback to Caesar's supply lines, as he could no longer get supplies through the Aedui (though the taking of Avaricum had supplied the army for the moment).[67]

    Vercingetorix now withdrew to Gergovia, the capital of his own tribe, which he was eager to defend. Caesar arrived as the weather warmed, and fodder finally became available, which somewhat eased supply issues. As usual, Caesar promptly set to building a fortification for the Romans. Caesar set about capturing territory closer to the oppidum. What happened in the ensuing Battle of Gergovia remains somewhat unclear. Caesar claims that he had just ordered his men to take a hill near to the oppidum, and that he then sounded a retreat. But no such retreat occurred, and the Romans directly assaulted the settlement. Gilliver finds it likely that Caesar did not actually sound a retreat, and that it was his plan all along to directly assault the settlement. Caesar's dubious claim is likely to distance himself from the ensuing and overwhelming failure of the Romans. The Roman assault ended in clear defeat, as the Romans were greatly outnumbered. Caesar (whose own casualty numbers are likely much lower than in actuality) claims that 700 men died, including 46 centurions. Caesar withdrew from his siege, and Vercingetorix's victory attracted many new tribes to his cause. So too however, did the Romans, whom convinced numerous Germanic tribes to join them.[67]

    Siege of Alesia, end of the revolt[edit]

    The fortifications built by Caesar in Alesia Inset: cross shows location of Alesia in Gaul (modern France). The circle shows the weakness in the north-western section of the fortifications
    Modern recreation of the Alesia fortifications, featuring rows of stakes in front of a moat, a high banked approach, and regular towers for Roman sentries

    Vercingetorix chose to defend the Mandubii oppidum of Alesia next, in what would become the siege of Alesia. After the poor performance at Gergovia, a direct assault on the Gauls by Caesar was no longer a viable solution. Thus, Caesar opted to simply siege the settlement and starve out the defenders. Vercingetorix was fine with this, as he intended to use Alesia as a trap to lay a pincher attack on the Romans, and sent a call for a relieving army at once. Vercingetorix likely did not expect the intensity of the Roman siege preparations. Although modern archeology suggests that Caesars preparations were not as complete as he describes, it is apparent that Caesar laid some truly incredible siege works. Over the span of a month, some 25 miles of fortifications were built. They included a trench for soldiers, an anti-cavalry moat, towers at regular intervals, and booby traps in front of the trenches. The fortifications were dug in two lines, one to protect from the defenders, and one to protect from the relievers. Archeological evidence suggests the lines were not continuous as Caesar claims, and made much use of the local terrain, but it is apparent that they worked. Vercingetorix's relieving army arrived quickly, yet concerted coordinated attacks by both the defenders and relievers failed to oust the Romans.[67]

    After multiple attacks, the Gauls realized that they could not overcome the truly impressive Roman siege works. At this point, it became clear that the Romans would be able to outlast the defenders, and that the revolt was doomed. The relieving army melted away. Vercingetorix surrendered, and was kept as a prisoner for the next six years, until he was paraded through Rome and ceremonially garroted at the Tullianum in 46 BC.[67][68]

    With the revolt crushed, Caesar set his legions to winter across the lands of the defeated tribes to prevent further rebellion. Troops were also sent to the Remi, who had been steadfast allies to the Romans throughout the campaign. But resistance was not entirely over: southwest Gaul had not yet been pacified.[67]

    51 and 50 BC: Pacification of the last Gauls[edit]

    The spring of 51 saw the legions campaign among the Belgic tribes to snuff out any thoughts of uprising, and peace was had. But two players in southwest Gaul, Drappes and Lucterius, remained openly hostile to the Romans, and had fortified the formidable Cadurci oppidum of Uxellodunum. Gaius Caninius Rebilus set siege to the oppidum, focusing on building a series of camps, a circumvallation, and disrupting Gallic access to water. A series of tunnels (of which archeological evidence has been found) were dug to the spring that fed the city. The Gauls attempted to burn down the Roman siege works, but to no avail. Eventually, the Roman tunnels reached the spring, and diverted the water supply. Not realizing the Roman action, the Gauls believed the spring going dry was a sign from the Gods, and surrendered. Caesar chose not to slaughter the defenders, and instead just cut off their hands as an example.[69]

    The legions were again wintered in Gaul, but little unrest occurred. All of the tribes had surrendered to the Romans, and little campaigning took place in 50 BC.[69] A number of lesser rebellions took place subsequently, but Roman control of Gaul was not seriously challenged again until the 2nd century AD.[citation needed]

    Caesar victorious[edit]

    Caesar had in the span of eight years conquered all of Gaul and part of Britain. He had become fabulously wealthy, and achieved a legendary reputation. The Gallic Wars provided enough gravitas to Caesar that he was able to subsequently wage a civil war and declare himself dictator, in a series of events that would eventually lead to the end of the Roman Republic.[70]

    The Gallic Wars lack a clear end date. The legions continued to be active in Gaul through 50 BC, when Aulus Hirtius took over the writing of Caesar's reports on the war. The campaigns may well have continued, if not for the impending Roman civil war. The legions in Gaul were eventually pulled out in 50 BC as the civil war drew near, for Caesar would need them to defeat his enemies in Rome. The Gauls had not been entirely subjugated, and were not yet a formal part of the empire. But that task was not Caesar's, and he left that to his successors. Gaul would not formally be made into Roman provinces until the reign of Augustus in 27 BC, and there may have been unrest in the region as late as 70 AD.[70]


    Very few sources about the Gallic Wars survive. The Gauls did not record the history of their peoples in a written form, and thus any Gallic perspective has been lost to time. The writings of Julius Caesar remain the main source of information, which complicates the task of historians as it is biased by Caesar. Only a handful of other contemporary works refer to the conflict, and none as in-depth as Caesar's. The fact that Caesar conquered Gaul is certain. The details however are less clear.[15]

    The Commentarii[edit]

    The main contemporary source of the conflict is Julius Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico, which was largely taken as truthful and accurate until the 20th century. Even in 1908, Camille Jullian wrote a comprehensive history of Gaul and took Caesar's account as unerring. But after World War II historians began to question if Caesar's claims stood up.[10]

    Historian David Henige takes particular issue with the supposed population and warrior counts. Caesar claims that he was able to estimate the population of the Helvetii because in their camp there was a census, written in Greek on tablets, which would have indicated 263,000 Helvetii and 105,000 allies, of whom exactly one quarter (92,000) were combatants. But Henige points out that such a census would have been difficult to achieve by the Gauls, that it would make no sense to be written in Greek by non-Greek tribes, and that carrying such a large quantity of stone or wood tablets on their migration would have been a monumental feat. Henige finds it oddly convenient that exactly one quarter were combatants, suggesting that the numbers were more likely ginned up by Caesar than outright counted by census. Even contemporary authors estimated that the population of the Helvetii and their allies were lower; Livy surmised that there were 157,000 overall (though Henige still believes this number inaccurate).[10] Hans Delbrück estimates that there were at most 20,000 migrating Helvetii, of whom 12,000 were warriors.[71] Gilliver thinks that there were not more than 50,000 Helvetii and allies.[27]

    During the campaign against the Usipetes and the Tenceri, Caesar makes the incredible claim that the Romans faced a host of 430,000, that the Roman victory was total, that the Romans lost not a single soldier, and that upon their loss the tribes committed mass suicide. Henige finds this entire story impossible, as did Ferdinand Lot, writing in 1947. Lot was one of the first modern authors who directly questioned the validity of these numbers, finding a fighting force of 430,000 to have been unbelievable for the time.[10] Gilliver considers 430,000 to be absurd as well, but does note that it was likely tens of thousands were killed, and finds the claim of zero Roman losses possible, as the brutality of the Romans was excessive.[62]

    Ultimately, Henige sees the Commentarii as a very clever piece of propaganda written by Caesar, built to make Caesar appear far grander than he was. Henige notes that Caesar's matter of fact tone and easy to read writing made it all the easier to accept his outlandish claims. Caesar sought to portray his fight as a justified defense against the barbarity of the Gauls (which was important, as Caesar had actually been the aggressor contrary to his claims). By making it appear that he had won against overwhelming odds and suffered minimal casualties, he further increased the belief that the he and the Romans were godly and destined to win against the godless barbarians of Gaul. Overall, Henige concludes that "Julius Caesar must be considered one of history's earliest – and most durably successful – "spin doctors"".[10] Gilliver also calls Caesar a "spin-doctor", noting that Caesar realized the importance of keeping up appearances in Rome.[15]

    In literature and culture[edit]

    Denarius from 48 BC, thought to depict an allegory of Gaul with a carnyx on the obverse and Diana of Ephesus with a stag on the reverse

    Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico, in Latin, is one of the best surviving examples of unadorned Latin prose. It has consequently been a subject of intense study for Latinists and is one of the classic prose sources traditionally used as a standard teaching text in modern Latin education.[72][73]

    The Gallic Wars have become a popular setting in modern historical fiction, especially that of France and Italy. Claude Cueni wrote a semihistorical novel, The Caesar's Druid, about a fictional Celtic druid, servant of Caesar and recorder of Caesar's campaigns. Morgan Llewelyn also wrote a book, Druids, about a Celtic druid who assisted Vercingetorix in his campaign against Julius Caesar. Similarly, Norman Spinrad's The Druid King follows the campaigns from Vercingetorix's perspective.[74] In addition, the comic Astérix is set shortly after the Gallic Wars, where the titular character's village is the last holdout in Gaul against Caesar's legions.

    The TV series Rome begins during the conquest of Gaul, and protagonists Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, are based on two historical centurions who fought during the Gallic Wars in Caesar's Legio XI Claudia and are mentioned in Commentarii de Bello Gallico.[75]

    The historical novel Caesar, by Colleen McCullough, gives a thorough popular account of the Gallic Wars.[76]

    The concept album Helvetios, by Swiss folk metal band Eluveitie, tells the story of the Gallic Wars through the eyes of the Helvetii.[77][78] The 2001 film, Druids, starring Christopher Lambert as Vercingetorix, depicts the Gallic Wars from the Gallic perspective. The film is considered historically inaccurate however, and was a box office failure.[79]

    The DLC campaign Caesar in Gaul for the strategy game Total War: Rome II is set during the Gallic Wars.[80]

    See also[edit]


    1. ^ Societies, Networks, and Transitions, A Global History to 1500, Volume I. 16 October 2016. ISBN 978-1-4784-2057-6.
    2. ^ a b Delbrück 1990, p. 46.
    3. ^ Dodge, Theodore Ayrault (1989–1997). Caesar. New York. pp. 276–295.
    4. ^ Keppie, Lawrende (1998). The making of the roman army. University of Oklahoma. p. 97.
    5. ^ a b c Alexandria, Appian of (23 March 2016). Delphi Complete Works of Appian (Illustrated). ISBN 978-1-78656-370-5. Archived from the original on 25 November 2020.
    6. ^ a b c Fields, Nic (February 2010). Warlords of Republican Rome: Caesar Against Pompey. ISBN 978-1-935149-06-4.
    7. ^ "Siege of Alesia". Archived from the original on 17 October 2017.
    8. ^ McCarty, Nick (15 January 2008). Rome: The Greatest Empire of the Ancient World. ISBN 978-1-4042-1366-1.
    9. ^ Julius Caesar, Commentaries on the Gallic Wars, 4.4–15
    10. ^ a b c d e Henige, David (1998). "He came, he saw, we counted : the historiography and demography of Caesar's gallic numbers". Annales de Démographie Historique. 1998 (1): 215–242. doi:10.3406/adh.1998.2162. Archived from the original on 2020-11-11.
    11. ^ "France: The Roman conquest". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on April 21, 2020. Because of chronic internal rivalries, Gallic resistance was easily broken, though Vercingetorix's Great Rebellion of 52 BC had notable successes.
    12. ^ "Julius Caesar: The first triumvirate and the conquest of Gaul". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on May 15, 2020. Indeed, the Gallic cavalry was probably superior to the Roman, horseman for horseman. Rome's military superiority lay in its mastery of strategy, tactics, discipline, and military engineering. In Gaul, Rome also had the advantage of being able to deal separately with dozens of relatively small, independent, and uncooperative states. Caesar conquered these piecemeal, and the concerted attempt made by a number of them in 52 BC to shake off the Roman yoke came too late.
    13. ^ Caesar. In: Hans Herzfeld [de] (1960): Geschichte in Gestalten (History in figures), vol. 1: A-E. Das Fischer Lexikon [de] 37, Frankfurt 1963, p. 214. "Hauptquellen [betreffend Caesar]: Caesars eigene, wenn auch leicht tendenziöse Darstellungen des Gallischen und des Bürgerkrieges, die Musterbeispiele sachgemäßer Berichterstattung und stilistischer Klarheit sind" ("Main sources [regarding Caesar]: Caesar's own, even depictions of the Gallic and the Civil Wars, which are paradigms of pertinent information and stylistic clarity")
    14. ^ "Battle sarcophagus". DMA (Dallas Museum of Art). Archived from the original on 20 November 2020.
    15. ^ a b c Gilliver 2003, p. 7.
    16. ^ Gilliver 2003, pp. 13–15.
    17. ^ Gilliver 2003, p. 11.
    18. ^ Grant 1969, p. 87.
    19. ^ a b c Walter 1952, p. 159.
    20. ^ Goldsworthy 2007, p. 246.
    21. ^ Gilliver 2003, pp. 18–29.
    22. ^ a b von Ungern-Sternberg 2014, p. 91.
    23. ^ a b Gilliver 2003, pp. 16–17.
    24. ^ a b c Chrissanthos, Stefan (2019). The Year of Julius and Caesar : 59 BC and the Transformation of the Roman Republic. Baltimore, Maryland. p. 73. ISBN 978-1-4214-2969-4. OCLC 1057781585.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
    25. ^ That the Balkans were Caesar's original target is argued by several scholars, including Penguin Classics The Conquest of Gaul: "Introduction", chapter 3 "The course of the war"[clarification needed], Adrian Goldsworthy, In the Name of Rome, chapter 8 "Caesar in Gaul". It is suggested by the provinces that Caesar initially wanted for himself (Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum) and supported by the initial placement of three of his four legions in Aquileia.
    26. ^ a b Gilliver 2003, pp. 30–32.
    27. ^ a b c d Gilliver 2003, pp. 33–35.
    28. ^ De Bello Gallico, I, 25 to 29.
    29. ^ Gilliver 2003, pp. 33–36.
    30. ^ Michael Grant, Julius Caesar (London, England: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969), 87
    31. ^ Grant, Julius Caesar, 87
    32. ^ Gérard Walter, Caesar: A Biography, trans. Emma Craufurd( New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952), 159
    33. ^ Adrian Goldsworthy, Caesar (London, England: Orion Books Ltd, 2007), 246
    34. ^ a b Walter, Caesar: A Biography, 159
    35. ^ J. F. C Fuller, Julius Caesar: Man, Soldier, and Tyrant (London, England: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1965), 106
    36. ^ Walter, Caesar: A Biography, 158
    37. ^ Walter, Caesar: A Biography, 158 and 161
    38. ^ a b Goldsworthy, Caesar, 271
    39. ^ Fuller, Julius Caesar: Man, Soldier, and Tyrant, 106
    40. ^ Maria Wyke, Caesar: A Life in Western Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 42
    41. ^ Goldsworthy, Caesar, 247
    42. ^ Fuller, Julius Caesar: Man, Soldier, and Tyrant, 107
    43. ^ Goldsworthy, Caesar, 272
    44. ^ Walter, Caesar: A Biography, 163–165.; Goldsworthy, Caesar, 272
    45. ^ Goldsworthy, Caesar, 274–275
    46. ^ Fuller, Julius Caesar: Man, Soldier, Tyrant, 108
    47. ^ Walter, Caesar: A Biography, 173–176
    48. ^ Walter, Caesar: A Biography, 177
    49. ^ Goldsworthy, Caesar, 277
    50. ^ Goldsworthy, Caesar, 277–278
    51. ^ Goldsworthy, Caesar, 279–280
    52. ^ Fuller, Julius Caesar: Man, Soldier, and Tyrant, 109
    53. ^ Goldsworthy, Caesar, 280–281
    54. ^ Grant, Julius Caesar, 89
    55. ^ Goldsworthy, Caesar, 281
    56. ^ Gilliver 2003, pp. 36.
    57. ^ a b c d e f Gilliver 2003, pp. 36-40.
    58. ^ Ezov, Amiram. The "Missing Dimension" of C. Julius Caesar. 1996, p.66
    59. ^ a b c d e f g Gilliver 2003, pp. 40-43.
    60. ^ a b Hammond, Carolyn (1996). The Gallic War. Oxford World's Classics. pp. 60–61. ISBN 978-0-19-954026-6.
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