Chapter 1.49

Ubi eum castrīs sē tenēre Caesar intellēxit, nē diūtius commeātū prohibērētur, ultrā eum locum, quō in locō Germānī cōnsēderant, circiter passūs sescentōs ab hīs, castrīs idōneum locum dēlēgit aciēque triplicī īnstrūctā ad eum locum vēnit. Prīmam et secundam aciem in armīs esse, tertiam castra mūnīre iussit. Hic locus ab hoste circiter passūs sescentōs, utī dictum est, aberat. Eō circiter hominum numerō sedecim mīlia expedīta cum omnī equitātū Ariovistus mīsit, quae cōpiae nostrōs peterrērent et mūnītiōne prohibērent. Nihilō sētius Caesar, ut ante cōnstituerat, duās aciēs hostem prōpulsāre, tertiam opus perficere iussit. Mūnītīs castrīs, duās ibi legiōnēs relīquit et partem auxiliōrum; quattuor reliquās in castra maiōra redūxit.

Caesar fortifies a second camp beyond Ariovistus, reopening the road to insure his line of communications.

eum: “that he,” i.e., Ariovistus (Harkness), the subject of tenēre (Hodges), while is its object (Kelsey).

nē diūtius commeātū prohibērētur: as described in Chapter 48, Ariovistus was in a position to cut off Caesar completely from his base of supplies by a further advance (L-E). It is a question for military men to decide, whether Caesar should have allowed Ariovistus to march past his camp, and cut off his communication with the quarter from which his supplies were to come. It is probable that his object, in delaying a general action, was to accustom his men, in the meanwhile, by a succession of slight encounters, to the looks of so formidable a foe, as well as to their manner of fighting (Anthon). Purpose clause (AG 531), depending on dēlēgit and vēnit (Hodges). Commeātū is ablative of separation (AG 401) with prohibērētur.

ultrā eum locum: “beyond the place,” from the point of view of the camp of Caesar, and between Ariovistus’ camp and the road along which Caesar’s supplies from the south came (L-E). Keep in mind the recent movements of the two armies. At the beginning of Chapter 48 they were within six miles of each other. Ariovistus then passed the camp of Caesar, and took up a position in his rear. Caesar now retraces his steps, and secures a position in his rear, to prevent the enemy from cutting off his supplies (Harkness).

locum, quō in loco: repetitions of this kind are frequent in Caesar (Spencer). Notice that locus is used five times in as many lines, neatness of style being sacrificed to clearness of expression (M-T). Similarly, in the previous chapter he used castra four times in as many lines (Hodges).

castrīs idōneum: “suitable for a camp” (Kelsey), about two and one-half miles south of his other camp (L-E). The adjective idōneus takes the dative (AG 384).

aciēque triplicī instructā: “the army being drawn up in three lines” (Spencer). Usually the army marched in column, but on this occasion it had to expect an attack at any moment and therefore it marched in battle formation (Walker), the triplex aciēs. When a legion was arranged in triple line, four cohorts of hastātī stood in the front row, three cohorts of prīncipēs in the second, and three cohorts of triāriī or pīlānī in the third (Hodges). (As Caesar nowhere makes use of the terms hastātī, prīncipēs, triāriī, and pīlānī, it is doubtful whether in his day the lines were distinguished by these names (Spencer)). The three maniples of a cohort were probably stationed side by side, the first centuries ahead of the second. If the century contained sixty men, the arrangement was very likely fifteen front and four deep. Thus each cohort would have a depth of eight man and a front of forty-five. According to a late writer each soldier had a right-and-left space of three feet in the rank, and the ranks were six feet apart. So, if we allow seven or eight feet between the maniples and a few feet between the centuries of a maniple, a cohort would occupy a rectangle about 150 feet by 45 feet. The space between cohorts may have been equal to the width of a cohort. If so, the legion would occupy a space of more than one thousand feet from right to left. In action the soldiers doubtless moved farther apart, filling the space between the cohorts and presenting an unbroken front to the enemy (Hodges).

vēnit: Caesar at first advanced towards the German camp as if to offer battle as usual, then moving to the right he marched past Ariovistus to the site chosen for the new camp (L-E).

secundam aciem in armīs esse, tertiam: the first and second groups were “in arms” to repel the expected attack (L-E). Note the asyndeton (AG 640).

castra mūnīre: “to fortify the camp” (H-T); “to build a [fortified] camp” (M-T). The spade and pickaxe were as familiar to the Roman soldier as the sword or javelin. Caesar had one larger camp about two miles east of the Germans, and a smaller one rather more than half a mile to the south of them (A-G).

circiter hominum numerō sedecim mīlia expedīta: = hominum mīlia expedītōrum (Harkness): “light armed troops numbering about sixteen thousand” (L-E). Expedīta (“unencumbered,” hence “ready to fight”) agrees grammatically with mīlia, but logically with hominum (Hodges). Hominum = peditum (L-E). The light-armed troops carried nothing but their arms, and were extremely rapid in their movements (Spencer).

quae cōpiae nostrōs terrērent: “that these forces might frighten our troops”; relative purpose clause (AG 531) (Harkness).

mūnītiōne: the abstract substantive is used with the force of a verbal substantive (mūniendō) (M-T).

nihilō sētius: “nevertheless,” “nonetheless” (L-E). Nihilō is ablative of degree of difference (AG 414) (Hodges). Sētius (sēcius), “less, in a lesser degree,” used only with negatives (L-E), is the comparative of sēcus (M-T).

opus: = mūnitiōnem castrōrum (Hodges), “the fortification” (Walpole).

mūnītīs castrīs: “when the camp was formed,” a natural expression, since no Roman force ever rested, even for a single night, without throwing up an earth-wall and ditch round their encamp-ment (Moberly).

ibi: “therein” (Walpole).

auxiliōrum: the auxiliaries were the troops sent by foreign kings and states in alliance with Rome (Spencer).

castra maiōra: i.e., the first camp, north of Ariovistus (M-T). Thus Caesar had two camps, castra maiōra with four legions, and castra minōra with two (Harkness). Caesar had been at the “larger” main camp for nearly two weeks. The two camps were about two and one-half miles apart, with the camp of Ariovistus between them (Hodges), and both were on somewhat higher ground. Caesar’s object in establishing the smaller camp was to keep open the road to Vesontio, and so maintain communication with his base of supplies (Kelsey).

redūxit: although Caesar’s forces were divided, he had regained the control of the communi-cations and was in a position to fall upon Ariovistus’s flank if he should attack either of the Roman camps (Walker).

commeātus, -ūs m.: going to and fro, trip; supplies, provisions.

Germānus, -ī, m. : a German; pl., the Germans; as adj., Germānus, -a, -um, German

cōnsīdō, -sīdere, -sēdī, -sessus : take a seat; settle, make a home; pitch camp; take a position, station oneself; hold a meeting.

circiter : (1) adv., about, nearly; (2) prep. with acc., about, around, near.

passus, -ūs m.: step, pace; double step (five Roman feet); mīlle passūs, mile; duo mīlia passuum, two miles. See mīlle.

sescentī, -ae, -a (dc) : pl. adj., six hundred.

idōneus, -a, -um: suitable, capable, convenient, fit.

dēligō, -ligere, -lēgī, -lēctus : choose, select, detail.

triplex, -plicis : adj., threefold, triple; triplex aciēs, see Introd., p. 44.

īnstruō, -struere, -strūxī, -strūctus : build in; set up, prepare; marshal, draw up; fit out, equip, rig.

mūniō, -īre, -īvī, -ītus : fortify, strengthen; protect, secure, guard; build, iter mūnīre, construct a road; mūnītus, -a, -um, fortified, protected, safe; (sup.) mūnītissimus, -a, -um, strongly fortified.

sēdecim (xvi) : indecl. adj., sixteen.

expedītus, -a, -um : unencumbered, lightly equipped, without luggage; free, unembarrassed, easy.

equitātus, -ūs m.: cavalry, body of horsemen.

Ariovistus, -ī, m.: Ariovistus, a German chief, or king.

nostri -orum m. pl.: our men

mūnītiō, -ōnis f.: fortifying, building of defenses; fortifications, ramparts; material for fortifying; defensive strength.

nihilum, -ī n.: nothing; nihilō, by nothing; nihilō magis, none the more; nihilō minus, none the less, nevertheless; nihilō sētius, no less, nevertheless.

sētius: comp. adv.; less, see nihilum.

prōpulsō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus : beat back, repel.

perficiō, -ficere, -fēcī, -fectus : make thoroughly, bring about, accomplish; finish, complete; arrange; construct.

redūcō, -dūcere, -dūxī, -ductus : lead back, bring back; draw off, withdraw; draw back, extend back.


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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.