Chapter 1.29

In castrīs Helvētiōrum tabulae repertae sunt litterīs Graecīs cōnfectae et ad Caesarem relātae, quibus in tabulīs nōminātim ratiō cōnfecta erat, quī numerus domō exīsset eōrum, quī arma ferre possent, et item sēparātim puerī, senēs mulierēsque. Quārum omnium rērum summa erat capitum Helvētiōrum milia CCLXIII, Tulingōrum mīlia XXXVI, Latovicōrum XIIII, Rauricōrum XXIII, Boiōrum XXXII; ex hīs quī arma ferre possent, ad mīlia nōnāgintā duo. Summa omnium fuērunt ad mīlia CCCLXVIII. Eōrum quī domum rediērunt cēnsū habitō, ut Caesar imperāverat, repertus est numerus mīlium C et decem.

The comparative estimate of the number of Helvetii who returned home and the number that had gone forth from their country.

castrīs: the corral described in Chapter 26 (Kelsey).

tabulae: “lists” (Anthon); “muster-rolls” (L-E); literally, “tablets” generally used for business documents (Kelsey) of the shape of a folding slate, with wax spread inside, written on with a pointed instrument called a stilus (A-G).

litterīs Graecīs confectae: “made out / written in Greek characters,” though not in the Greek language: the words were Celtic, the characters were Greek (Anthon). These letters were probably learned from people at Massilia (Marseilles, a Greek colony in the south of Gaul (Spencer)), as the Gauls had no alphabet of their own. The Druids made use of Greek letters, but the Gauls in general seem to have been ignorant of them. A large number of Gallic inscriptions in Greek characters have been discovered in central France (L-E); specimens of Gallic names on coins discovered at Alesia appear with the names DUBNOREX, ΔEIVICIACOS, VERCINGETORIXS in Greek characters (A-G).

et: connects repertae sunt and relātae (sunt) (Hodges).

quibus in tabulīs: “on which” (L-E); tabulīs is redundant.

nōminātim: “by name” (Kelsey).

ratiō quī numerus … exīsset: quī numerus = quot (Walpole): “an accounting” (A-G); “a statement” (Kelsey); “an estimate” (Anthon)  … “showing what number … ” (Harkness); quī … exīsset is an indirect question (AG 575) (A-G). Exīsset = exiisset.

quī arma ferre possent: subjunctive in a relative clause of characteristic (AG 534) (A-G) or a second indirect question dependent on ratiō (AG 575) (Spencer).

quot puerī, senēs mulierēsque: sc. exīssent (Walker). There is a sudden and ungrammatical change from the subordinate relative clauses (quī … quī) to a coordinate clause, coupled by et. In strict grammar puerī, senēs, mulierēsque should be genitives dependent on ratiō; as it is, a verb must be supplied to suit the sense from cōnfecta est, e.g., conscriptī sunt: “In which list an account was drawn up of the number of those who had left their home, who were able to bear arms, and likewise the children, old men, and women [who had left home were entered] separately” (M-T). When three or more nouns stand side by side in the same grammatical construction, they are either:

  1. All connected by conjunctions;
  2. Or none of them are connected by conjunctions;
  3. Or –que is appended to the last item, as here. (M-T).

[quārum omnium rērum] summa: “the sum of all these classes / items / things” (Harkness); “under all these various headings” (M-T). Rērum here used of persons; Caesar was thinking of the numbers and categories rather than the persons (Kelsey). The grand total of 368,000; of whom exactly a fourth part were men capable of bearing arms. As 100,000 returned home, and the Boii, who had originally been 32,000, were spared, it would appear that about 226,000 Helvetii perished in this four months’ campaign (M-T).

capitum Helvētiōrum: as we say in English so many “head” of cattle, but we do not use the term of human beings (Kelsey) (cf. per capita tax). Capitum is best rendered here by our English word “souls” (Anthon). The use of capita is common in the Roman census (Harkness). This seems to be in careless contempt for the persons of the motley multitude (L-E).

mīlium: predicate genitive (AG 343): “the total of all these items was [of] 263,000 souls of the Helvetii” (Hodges).

quī: refers to hīs [mīlibus] as its antecedent (Harkness); the gender of quī is in agreement with the implied hominum inherent in the antecedent.

ad mīlia nōnāgintā duo: ad has an adverbial force (Harkness): “about 92,000” (A-G).

summa: “the sum total” (L-E); “the aggregate” (Kelsey). The total given by Caesar is considered too high by some commentators (L-E). Polyaenus gives the number of the Helvetii at 80,000. Plutarch (Vītae Caesaris, 18) makes the whole number 300,000. Strabo states that 400,000 Gauls perished, and that the rest returned home. The discrepancy is occasioned, no doubt, by the errors of copyists (Anthon).

fuērunt: in agreement with the plural predicate (mīlia CCCLXVIII), not with its subject summa (Hodges).

domum: accusative of place to which without a preposition (AG 427).

cēnsū habitō: “when an actual enumeration had been made” (Harkness); “a calculation of the number having been made” (M-T); “a census being taken,” a number or review being made (Spencer).  The term cēnsus is here employed in its general sense. In its Roman acceptation, it meant a review of the people, and a valuation of their estates, together with an estimate of their numbers (Anthon). At Rome such a census was taken every five years (Harkness) and was administered by a specially appointed official called a cēnsor.

mīlium C et X: according to these numbers 20,000 disappeared between the battle and the return home. Caesar only accounts for 6000, the men of the pāgus Verbigenus (M-T). Adding the Boii, who were adopted by the Aedui, this number gives a total of 142,000 survivors, making the loss of the Helvetians and their allies 263,000 (L-E). Even if the Boii are not included, the number of killed, captured, and missing during the campaign would be not far below 250,000. No doubt some escaped singly to other tribes, but still the slaughter must have been frightful. Some later writers make the numbers smaller than here given (Hodges). However, the carnage seems extraordinary even under the conditions of ancient warfare (A-G). Caesar’s conduct of this campaign–his first one in command of a large army–was characterized by great energy and ability. He exhibited a degree of caution which was natural under the circumstances. The slow movement of the enemy and their lack of unity helped him greatly (L-E).

Helvētius, -a, -um: Helvetian; as subst., m., a Helvetian; pl., the Helvetii, a rich and powerful tribe, whose country was nearly the same as modern Switzerland.

tabula, -ae, f.: board, plank; tablet, record, list.

Graecus, -a, -um: Greek; as subst., m., a Greek.

tabula, -ae, f.: board, plank; tablet, record, list.

nōminātim: adv., by name, expressly.

sēparātim: adv., apart, separately, individually.

summa, -ae f.: chief place; leadership, general management, control; decision; whole, amount, sum.

ducentī, -ae, -a (cc): pl. adj., two hundred.

sexāgintā (lx): indecl. adj., sixty.

Tulingī, -ōrum, m.: pl., the Tulingi, a small tribe, living perhaps across the Rhine from the Helvetii.

trīgintā (xxx): indecl. adj., thirty.

sex (vi): indecl. adj., six.

Latobrigī, -ōrum, m.: pl., the Lato-brigi, a Gallic tribe dwelling not far from the Helvetii, perhaps east of the Rhine, near the source of the Danube.

quattuordecim (xiiii): indecl. adj., fourteen.

Rauracī, -ōrum, m.: pl., the Rauraci, a Gallic tribe about the head waters of the Rhine.

vīgintī (xx); vīcēsimus, -a, -um: indecl. adj., twenty; twentieth

Bōiī, Bōiōrum, m.: pl., the Boii, a Gallic tribe, which was finally settled in the territory of the Aedui, perhaps in the angle between the Elaver (Allier) and the Liger (Loire).

trīgintā (xxx): indecl. adj., thirty.

nōnāgintā (xc): indecl. adj., ninety.

trecentī, -ae, -a (ccc): pl. adj., three hundred.

sexāgintā (lx): indecl. adj., sixty.

octō (viii); octāvus, -a, -um: indecl. adj., eight; eighth

cēnsus, -ūs m.: registering, enumeration, census.

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Christopher Francese, Caesar: Selections from the Gallic War. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2011, revised and enlarged 2018. ISBN: 978-1-947822-02-3.