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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Defeat of Ariovistus and the Germans
By Julius Cæsar (100–44 B.C.)
From ‘The Gallic Wars’

WHEN he had proceeded three days’ journey, word was brought to him that Ariovistus was hastening with all his forces to seize on Vesontio, 1 which is the largest town of the Sequani, and had advanced three days’ journey from his territories. Cæsar thought that he ought to take the greatest precautions lest this should happen, for there was in that town a most ample supply of everything which was serviceable for war; and so fortified was it by the nature of the ground as to afford a great facility for protracting the war, inasmuch as the river Doubs almost surrounds the whole town, as though it were traced round with a pair of compasses. A mountain of great height shuts in the remaining space, which is not more than six hundred feet, where the river leaves a gap in such a manner that the roots of that mountain extend to the river’s bank on either side. A wall thrown around it makes a citadel of this mountain, and connects it with the town. Hither Cæsar hastens by forced marches by night and day, and after having seized the town, stations a garrison there.  1
  Whilst he is tarrying a few days at Vesontio, on account of corn and provisions; from the inquiries of our men and the reports of the Gauls and traders (who asserted that the Germans were men of huge stature, of incredible valor and practice in arms,—that ofttimes they, on encountering them, could not bear even their countenance and the fierceness of their eyes), so great a panic on a sudden seized the whole army, as to discompose the minds and spirits of all in no slight degree. This first arose from the tribunes of the soldiers, the prefects and the rest, who, having followed Cæsar from the city [Rome] from motives of friendship, had no great experience in military affairs. And alleging, some of them one reason, some another, which they said made it necessary for them to depart, they requested that by his consent they might be allowed to withdraw; some, influenced by shame, stayed behind in order that they might avoid the suspicion of cowardice. These could neither compose their countenance, nor even sometimes check their tears: but hidden in their tents, either bewailed their fate or deplored with their comrades the general danger. Wills were sealed universally throughout the whole camp. By the expressions and cowardice of these men, even those who possessed great experience in the camp, both soldiers and centurions, and those [the decurions] who were in command of the cavalry, were gradually disconcerted. Such of them as wished to be considered less alarmed said that they did not dread the enemy, but feared the narrowness of the roads and the vastness of the forests which lay between them and Ariovistus, or else that the supplies could not be brought up readily enough. Some even declared to Cæsar that when he gave orders for the camp to be moved and the troops to advance, the soldiers would not be obedient to the command nor advance, in consequence of their fear.  2
  When Cæsar observed these things, having called a council, and summoned to it the centurions of all the companies, he severely reprimanded them, “particularly for supposing that it belonged to them to inquire or conjecture either in what direction they were marching or with what object. That Ariovistus during his [Cæsar’s] consulship had most anxiously sought after the friendship of the Roman people; why should any one judge that he would so rashly depart from his duty? He for his part was persuaded that when his demands were known and the fairness of the terms considered, he would reject neither his nor the Roman people’s favor. But even if, driven on by rage and madness, he should make war upon them, what after all were they afraid of?—or why should they despair either of their own valor or of his zeal? Of that enemy a trial had been made within our fathers’ recollection, when on the defeat of the Cimbri and Teutones by Caius Marius, the army was regarded as having deserved no less praise than their commander himself. It had been made lately too in Italy, during the rebellion of the slaves, whom, however, the experience and training which they had received from us assisted in some respect. From which a judgment might be formed of the advantages which resolution carries with it,—inasmuch as those whom for some time they had groundlessly dreaded when unarmed, they had afterwards vanquished when well armed and flushed with success. In short, that these were the same men whom the Helvetii, in frequent encounters, not only in their own territories, but also in theirs [the German], have generally vanquished, and yet cannot have been a match for our army. If the unsuccessful battle and flight of the Gauls disquieted any, these, if they made inquiries, might discover that when the Gauls had been tired out by the long duration of the war, Ariovistus, after he had many months kept himself in his camp and in the marshes, and had given no opportunity for an engagement, fell suddenly upon them, by this time despairing of a battle and scattered in all directions; and was victorious more through stratagem and cunning than valor. But though there had been room for such stratagem against savage and unskilled men, not even Ariovistus himself expected that thereby our armies could be entrapped. That those who ascribed their fear to a pretense about the deficiency of supplies and the narrowness of the roads acted presumptuously, as they seemed either to distrust their general’s discharge of his duty or to dictate to him. That these things were his concern; that the Sequani, the Leuci, and the Lingones were to furnish the corn; and that it was already ripe in the fields; that as to the road, they would soon be able to judge for themselves. As to its being reported that the soldiers would not be obedient to command, or advance, he was not at all disturbed at that; for he knew that in the case of all those whose army had not been obedient to command, either upon some mismanagement of an affair fortune had deserted them, or that upon some crime being discovered covetousness had been clearly proved against them. His integrity had been seen throughout his whole life, his good fortune in the war with the Helvetii. That he would therefore instantly set about what he had intended to put off till a more distant day, and would break up his camp the next night in the fourth watch, that he might ascertain as soon as possible whether a sense of honor and duty, or whether fear, had more influence with them. But that if no one else should follow, yet he would go with only the tenth legion, of which he had no misgivings, and it should be his prætorian cohort.”—This legion Cæsar had both greatly favored, and in it, on account of its valor, placed the greatest confidence.  3
  Upon the delivery of this speech, the minds of all were changed in a surprising manner, and the highest ardor and eagerness for prosecuting the war were engendered; and the tenth legion was the first to return thanks to him, through their military tribunes, for his having expressed this most favorable opinion of them; and assured him that they were quite ready to prosecute the war. Then the other legions endeavored, through their military tribunes and the centurions of the principal companies, to excuse themselves to Cæsar, saying that they had never either doubted or feared, or supposed that the determination of the conduct of the war was theirs and not their general’s. Having accepted their excuse, and having had the road carefully reconnoitred by Divitiacus, because in him of all others he had the greatest faith, he found that by a circuitous route of more than fifty miles he might lead his army through open parts; he then set out in the fourth watch, as he had said he would. On the seventh day, as he did not discontinue his march, he was informed by scouts that the forces of Ariovistus were only four-and-twenty miles distant from ours.  4
  Upon being apprised of Cæsar’s arrival, Ariovistus sends ambassadors to him, saying that what he had before requested as to a conference might now, as far as his permission went, take place, since he [Cæsar] had approached nearer; and he considered that he might now do it without danger. Cæsar did not reject the proposal, and began to think that he was now returning to a rational state of mind, as he voluntarily proffered that which he had previously refused to him when he requested it; and was in great hopes that, in consideration of his own and the Roman people’s great favors towards him, the issue would be that he would desist from his obstinacy upon his demands being made known. The fifth day after that was appointed as the day of conference. Meanwhile, as ambassadors were being often sent to and fro between them, Ariovistus demanded that Cæsar should not bring any foot-soldier with him to the conference, saying that “he was afraid of being ensnared by him through treachery; that both should come accompanied by cavalry; that he would not come on any other condition.” Cæsar, as he neither wished that the conference should, by an excuse thrown in the way, be set aside, nor durst trust his life to the cavalry of the Gauls, decided that it would be most expedient to take away from the Gallic cavalry all their horses, and thereon to mount the legionary soldiers of the tenth legion, in which he placed the greatest confidence; in order that he might have a body-guard as trustworthy as possible, should there be any need for action. And when this was done, one of the soldiers of the tenth legion said, not without a touch of humor, “that Cæsar did more for them than he had promised: he had promised to have the tenth legion in place of his prætorian cohort; but he now converted them into horse.”  5
  There was a large plain, and in it a mound of earth of considerable size. This spot was at nearly an equal distance from both camps. Thither, as had been appointed, they came for the conference. Cæsar stationed the legion which he had brought with him on horseback, two hundred paces from this mound. The cavalry of Ariovistus also took their stand at an equal distance. Ariovistus then demanded that they should confer on horseback, and that, besides themselves, they should bring with them ten men each to the conference. When they were come to the place, Cæsar, in the opening of his speech, detailed his own and the Senate’s favors towards him [Ariovistus], “in that he had been styled king, in that he had been styled friend, by the Senate,—in that very considerable presents had been sent him; which circumstance he informed him had both fallen to the lot of few, and had usually been bestowed in consideration of important personal services; that he, although he had neither an introduction, nor a just ground for the request, had obtained these honors through the kindness and munificence of himself [Cæsar] and the Senate. He informed him, too, how old and how just were the grounds of connection that existed between themselves [the Romans] and the Ædui, what decrees of the Senate had been passed in their favor, and how frequent and how honorable; how from time immemorial the Ædui had held the supremacy of the whole of Gaul; even, said Cæsar, before they had sought our friendship; that it was the custom of the Roman people to desire not only that its allies and friends should lose none of their property, but be advanced in influence, dignity, and honor: who then could endure that what they had brought with them to the friendship of the Roman people should be torn from them?” He then made the same demands which he had commissioned the ambassadors to make, that Ariovistus should not make war either upon the Ædui or their allies; that he should restore the hostages; that if he could not send back to their country any part of the Germans, he should at all events suffer none of them any more to cross the Rhine.  6
  Ariovistus replied briefly to the demands of Cæsar, but expatiated largely on his own virtues: “that he had crossed the Rhine not of his own accord, but on being invited and sent for by the Gauls; that he had not left home and kindred without great expectations and great rewards; that he had settlements in Gaul, granted by the Gauls themselves; that the hostages had been given by their own good-will; that he took by right of war the tribute which conquerors are accustomed to impose on the conquered; that he had not made war upon the Gauls, but the Gauls upon him; that all the States of Gaul came to attack him, and had encamped against him; that all their forces had been routed and beaten by him in a single battle; that if they chose to make a second trial, he was ready to encounter them again; but if they chose to enjoy peace, it was unfair to refuse the tribute which of their own free-will they had paid up to that time. That the friendship of the Roman people ought to prove to him an ornament and a safeguard, not a detriment; and that he sought it with that expectation. But if through the Roman people the tribute was to be discontinued, and those who surrendered to be seduced from him, he would renounce the friendship of the Roman people no less heartily than he had sought it. As to his leading over a host of Germans into Gaul, that he was doing this with a view of securing himself, not of assaulting Gaul: that there was evidence of this, in that he did not come without being invited, and in that he did not make war, but merely warded it off. That he had come into Gaul before the Roman people. That never before this time did a Roman army go beyond the frontiers of the province of Gaul. What, said he, does Cæsar desire?—why come into his [Ariovistus’s] domains?—that this was his province of Gaul, just as that is ours. As it ought not to be pardoned in him if he were to make an attack upon our territories, so likewise that we were unjust to obstruct him in his prerogative. As for Cæsar’s saying that the Ædui had been styled ‘brethren’ by the Senate, he was not so uncivilized nor so ignorant of affairs as not to know that the Ædui in the very last war with the Allobroges had neither rendered assistance to the Romans nor received any from the Roman people in the struggles which the Ædui had been maintaining with him and with the Sequani. He must feel suspicious that Cæsar, though feigning friendship as the reason for his keeping an army in Gaul, was keeping it with the view of crushing him. And that unless he depart and withdraw his army from these parts, he shall regard him not as a friend, but as a foe; and that even if he should put him to death, he should do what would please many of the nobles and leading men of the Roman people; he had assurance of that from themselves through their messengers, and could purchase the favor and the friendship of them all by his [Cæsar’s] death. But if he would depart and resign to him the free possession of Gaul, he would recompense him with a great reward, and would bring to a close whatever wars he wished to be carried on, without any trouble or risk to him.”  7
  Many things were stated by Cæsar to the following effect:—“That he could not waive the business, and that neither his nor the Roman people’s practice would suffer him to abandon most meritorious allies; nor did he deem that Gaul belonged to Ariovistus rather than to the Roman people; that the Arverni 2 and the Ruteni 3 had been subdued in war by Quintus Fabius Maximus, and that the Roman people had pardoned them and had not reduced them into a province or imposed a tribute upon them. And if the most ancient period was to be regarded, then was the sovereignty of the Roman people in Gaul most just: if the decree of the Senate was to be observed, then ought Gaul to be free, which they [the Romans] had conquered in war, and had permitted to enjoy its own laws.”  8
  While these things were being transacted in the conference, it was announced to Cæsar that the cavalry of Ariovistus were approaching nearer the mound, and were riding up to our men and casting stones and weapons at them. Cæsar made an end of his speech and betook himself to his men; and commanded them that they should by no means return a weapon upon the enemy. For though he saw that an engagement with the cavalry would be without any danger to his chosen legion, yet he did not think proper to engage, lest after the enemy were routed it might be said that they had been ensnared by him under the sanction of a conference. When it was spread abroad among the common soldiery with what haughtiness Ariovistus had behaved at the conference, and how he had ordered the Romans to quit Gaul, and how his cavalry had made an attack upon our men, and how this had broken off the conference, a much greater alacrity and eagerness for battle was infused into our army.  9
  Two days after, Ariovistus sends ambassadors to Cæsar to state that “he wished to treat with him about those things which had been begun to be treated of between them, but had not been concluded”; and to beg that “he would either again appoint a day for a conference, or if he were not willing to do that, that he would send one of his officers as an ambassador to him.” There did not appear to Cæsar any good reason for holding a conference; and the more so as the day before, the Germans could not be restrained from casting weapons at our men. He thought he should not without great danger send to him as ambassador one of his Roman officers, and should expose him to savage men. It seemed therefore most proper to send to him C. Valerius Procillus, the son of C. Valerius Caburus, a young man of the highest courage and accomplishments (whose father had been presented with the freedom of the city by C. Valerius Flaccus), both on account of his fidelity and on account of his knowledge of the Gallic language,—which Ariovistus, by long practice, now spoke fluently,—and because in his case the Germans would have no motive for committing violence; 4 and for his colleague, M. Mettius, who had shared the hospitality of Ariovistus. He commissioned them to learn what Ariovistus had to say, and to report to him. But when Ariovistus saw them before him in his camp, he cried out in the presence of his army, “Why were they come to him? was it for the purpose of acting as spies?” He stopped them when attempting to speak, and cast them into chains.  10
  The same day he moved his camp forward and pitched under a hill six miles from Cæsar’s camp. The day following he led his forces past Cæsar’s camp, and encamped two miles beyond him; with this design—that he might cut off Cæsar from the corn and provisions which might be conveyed to him from the Sequani and the Ædui. For five successive days from that day Cæsar drew out his forces before the camp and put them in battle order, that if Ariovistus should be willing to engage in battle, an opportunity might not be wanting to him. Ariovistus all this time kept his army in camp, but engaged daily in cavalry skirmishes. The method of battle in which the Germans had practiced themselves was this: There were six thousand horse, and as many very active and courageous foot, one of whom each of the horse selected out of the whole army for his own protection. By these men they were constantly accompanied in their engagements; to these the horse retired; these on any emergency rushed forward; if any one, upon receiving a very severe wound, had fallen from his horse, they stood around him; if it was necessary to advance farther than usual or to retreat more rapidly, so great, from practice, was their swiftness, that supported by the manes of the horses they could keep pace with their speed.  11
  Perceiving that Ariovistus kept himself in camp, Cæsar, that he might not any longer be cut off from provisions, chose a convenient position for a camp beyond that place in which the Germans had encamped, at about six hundred paces from them, and having drawn up his army in three lines, marched to that place. He ordered the first and second lines to be under arms; the third to fortify the camp. This place was distant from the enemy about six hundred paces, as has been stated. Thither Ariovistus sent light troops, about sixteen thousand men in number, with all his cavalry; which forces were to intimidate our men and hinder them in their fortification. Cæsar nevertheless, as he had before arranged, ordered two lines to drive off the enemy; the third to execute the work. The camp being fortified, he left there two legions and a portion of the auxiliaries, and led back the other four legions into the larger camp.  12
  The next day, according to his custom, Cæsar led out his forces from both camps, and having advanced a little from the larger one, drew up his line of battle, and gave the enemy an opportunity of fighting. When he found that they did not even then come out from their intrenchments, he led back his army into camp about noon. Then at last Ariovistus sent part of his forces to attack the lesser camp. The battle was vigorously maintained on both sides till the evening. At sunset, after many wounds had been inflicted and received, Ariovistus led back his forces into camp. When Cæsar inquired of his prisoners wherefore Ariovistus did not come to an engagement, he discovered this to be the reason—that among the Germans it was the custom for their matrons to pronounce from lots and divination whether it were expedient that the battle should be engaged in or not; that they had said that “it was not the will of heaven that the Germans should conquer, if they engaged in battle before the new moon.”  13
  The day following, Cæsar left what seemed sufficient as a guard for both camps; and then drew up all the auxiliaries in sight of the enemy, before the lesser camp, because he was not very powerful in the number of legionary soldiers, considering the number of the enemy; that thereby he might make use of his auxiliaries for appearance. He himself, having drawn up his army in three lines, advanced to the camp of the enemy. Then at last of necessity the Germans drew their forces out of camp and disposed them canton by canton, at equal distances, the Harudes, Marcomanni, Tribocci, Vangiones, Nemetes, Sedusii, Suevi; and surrounded their whole army with their chariots and wagons, that no hope might be left in flight. On these they placed their women, who, with disheveled hair and in tears, entreated the soldiers, as they went forward to battle, not to deliver them into slavery to the Romans.  14
  Cæsar appointed over each legion a lieutenant and a quæstor, that every one might have them as witnesses of his valor. He himself began the battle at the head of the right wing, because he had observed that part of the enemy to be the least strong. Accordingly our men, upon the signal being given, vigorously made an attack upon the enemy, and the enemy so suddenly and rapidly rushed forward that there was no time for casting the javelins at them. Throwing aside, therefore, their javelins, they fought with swords hand to hand. But the Germans, according to their custom, rapidly forming a phalanx, sustained the attack of our swords. There were found very many of our soldiers who leaped upon the phalanx, and with their hands tore away the shields and wounded the enemy from above. Although the army of the enemy was routed on the left wing and put to flight, they still pressed heavily on our men from the right wing, by the great number of their troops. On observing this, P. Crassus the Younger, who commanded the cavalry,—as he was more disengaged than those who were employed in the fight,—sent the third line as a relief to our men who were in distress.  15
  Thereupon the engagement was renewed, and all the enemy turned their backs, nor did they cease to flee until they arrived at the river Rhine, about fifty miles from that place. There some few, either relying on their strength, endeavored to swim over, or finding boats procured their safety. Among the latter was Ariovistus, who, meeting with a small vessel tied to the bank, escaped in it: our horse pursued and slew all the rest of them. Ariovistus had two wives, one a Suevan by nation, whom he had brought with him from home; the other a Norican, the sister of King Vocion, whom he had married in Gaul, she having been sent thither for that purpose by her brother. Both perished in that flight. Of their two daughters, one was slain, the other captured. C. Valerius Procillus, as he was being dragged by his guards in the flight, bound with a triple chain, fell into the hands of Cæsar himself, as he was pursuing the enemy with his cavalry. This circumstance indeed afforded Cæsar no less pleasure than the victory itself; because he saw a man of the first rank in the province of Gaul, his intimate acquaintance and friend, rescued from the hand of the enemy and restored to him, and that fortune had not diminished aught of the joy and exultation of that day by his destruction. He [Procillus] said that in his own presence the lots had been thrice consulted respecting him, whether he should immediately be put to death by fire or be reserved for another time: that by the favor of the lots he was uninjured. M. Mettius also was found and brought back to him [Cæsar].  16
  This battle having been reported beyond the Rhine, the Suevi, who had come to the banks of that river, began to return home; when the Ubii, 5 who dwelt nearest to the Rhine, pursuing them while much alarmed, slew a great number of them. Cæsar, having concluded two very important wars in one campaign, conducted his army into winter quarters among the Sequani a little earlier than the season of the year required. He appointed Labienus over the winter quarters, and set out in person for hither Gaul to hold the assizes.  17
Note 1. Modern Besançon. [back]
Note 2. Modern Auvergne. [back]
Note 3. Modern Le Roüergue. [back]
Note 4. Inasmuch as he was not a Roman, but a Gaul. [back]
Note 5. The Ubii were situated on the west side of the Rhine. Cologne is supposed to occupy the site of their capital. [back]

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