Sunday, May 3, 2015

Caesar's Gaul Just After Alesia

Featuring an excerpt from History of Julius Caesar by Napoleon III published in 1865.

Introduction to our series Caesar Conquers Gaul:
The story of the long war, with its various campaigns, has become familiar to the world's readers through the masterly account of Caesar himself, known to "every schoolboy" who advances to the dignity of classical studies. In the end the country between the Pyrenees and the Rhine was subjugated, and for several centuries it remained a Roman province.

At the time when the history is taken up in the following narrative by Napoleon III, the great rebellion, B.C. 52, had sustained a heavy blow in the surrender of Alesia, and the capture of the heroic chief and leader of the insurrection, Vercingetorix, whom Caesar exhibited in his triumph at Rome, B.C. 46, and then caused to be put to death.

Napoleon III ruled France during the middle decades of the 19th. century. He said he wrote his book on Julius Caesar "for the purpose of proving that when Providence raises up such men as Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon it is to trace out to peoples the path they ought to follow, to stamp with the seal of their genius a new era, and to accomplish in a few years the work of many centuries." The work was prepared [vide Manual of Historical Literature: Adams] with the utmost care--a care which extended in some instances to special surveys, to insure perfect accuracy in the descriptions, etc. And now, Napoleon III

Time: September 52 BC
Place: Alesia, Gaul (France)

Vercingetorix's surrender to Caesar after the
Siege of Alesia in 52 BC.
Public Domain from Wikipedia.
The capture of Alesia and that of Vercingetorix, in spite of the united efforts of all Gaul, naturally gave Caesar hopes of a general submission; and he therefore believed that he could leave his army during the winter to rest quietly in its quarters from the hard labors which had lasted without interruption during the whole of the past summer. But the spirit of insurrection was not extinct among the Gauls; and convinced by experience that whatever might be their number they could not in a body cope with troops inured to war, they resolved, by partial insurrections raised on all points at once, to divide the attention and the forces of the Romans as their only chance of resisting them with advantage.

Caesar was unwilling to leave them time to realize this new plan, but gave the command of his winter quarters to his quaestor, Mark Antony; quitted Bibracte on the day before the Calends of January (the 25th of December) with an escort of cavalry, joined the Thirteenth legion, which was in winter quarters among the Bituriges, not far from the frontier of the Aldui, and called to him the Eleventh legion, which was the nearest at hand. Having left two cohorts of each legion to guard the baggage, he proceeded toward the fertile country of the Bituriges, a vast territory, where the presence of a single legion was insufficient to put a stop to the preparations for insurrection.

His sudden arrival in the midst of men without distrust, who were spread over the open country, produced the result which he expected. They were surprised before they could enter into their oppidae--for Caesar had strictly forbidden everything which might have raised their suspicion; especially the application of fire, which usually betrays the sudden presence of an enemy. Several thousands of captives were made. Those who succeeded in escaping sought in vain a refuge among the neighboring nations. Caesar, by forced marches, came up with them everywhere and obliged each tribe to think of its own safety before that of others.

This activity held the populations in their fidelity, and through fear engaged the wavering to submit to the conditions of peace. Thus the Bituriges, seeing that Caesar offered them an easy way to recover his protection, and that the neighboring states had suffered no other chastisement than that of having to deliver hostages, did not hesitate in submitting.

The soldiers of the Eleventh and Thirteenth legions had, during the winter, supported with rare constancy the fatigues of very difficult marches in intolerable cold. To reward them he promised to give by way of prize-money two hundred sestertii to each soldier and two thousand to each centurion. He then sent them into their winter quarters and returned to Bibracte after an absence of forty days. While he was there, dispensing justice, the Bituriges came to implore his support against the attacks of the Carnutes. Although it was only eighteen days since here turned, he marched again at the head of two legions--the Sixth and the Fourteenth--which had been placed on the Saone to insure the supply of provisions.

On his approach the Carnutes, taught by the fate of others, abandoned their miserable huts--which they had erected on the site of their burgs and oppida destroyed in the last campaign--and fled in every direction.

Caesar, unwilling to expose his soldiers to the rigor of the season, established his camp at Genabum (Gien), and lodged them partly in the huts which had remained undestroyed, partly in tents under penthouses covered with straw. The cavalry and auxiliary infantry were sent in pursuit of the Carnutes, who, hunted down everywhere, and without shelter, took refuge in the neighboring counties.

After having dispersed some rebellious meetings and stifled the germs of an insurrection, Caesar believed that the summer would pass without any serious war. He left therefore at Genabum the two legions he had with him, and gave the command of them to C. Trebonius.

Nevertheless, he learned by several intimations from the Remi that the Bellovaci and neighboring peoples, with Correus and Commius at their head, were collecting troops to make an inroad on the territory of the Suessiones, who had been placed--since the campaign of 697--under the dependence of the Remi.

He considered that he regarded his interest as well as his dignity in protecting allies who had deserved so well of the republic. He again drew the Eleventh legion from its winter quarters, sent written orders to C. Fabius, who was encamped in the country of the Remi, to bring into that of the Suessiones the two legions under his command, and demanded one of his legions from Labienus, who was at Besançon. Thus without taking any rest himself he shared the fatigues among the legions by turns, as far as the position of the winter quarters and the necessities of the war permitted.

Continued on Monday, May 4th.

More information here.

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