Chapter 1.51

Postrīdiē eius diēī Caesar praesidium utrīsque castrīs quod satis esse vīsum est relīquit; omnēs ālāriōs in cōnspectū hostium prō castrīs minōribus cōnstituit, quod minus multitūdine mīlitum legiōnāriōrum prō hostium numerō valēbat, ut ad speciem ālāriīs ūterētur; ipse triplicī īnstrūctā aciē usque ad castra hostium accessit. Tum dēmum necessāriō Germānī suās cōpiās castrīs ēdūxērunt generātimque cōnstituērunt paribus intervāllīs, Harūdēs, Marcomanōs, Tribocēs, Vangionēs, Nemētēs, Sedusiōs, Suēbōs, omnemque aciem suam raedīs et carrīs circumdedērunt, nē qua spēs in fugā relinquerētur. Eō mulierēs imposuērunt, quae ad proelium proficīscentēs passīs manibus flentēs implōrābant nē sē in servitūtem Rōmānīs trāderent.

Taking advantage of their superstition, Caesar forces an engagement.

postrīdiē eius diēī: September 10 is a probably date (L-E); the date was about September 14 (Kelsey).

praesidiō utrīsque castrīs: “as a garrison for each camp” (Kelsey); double dative construction: praesidiō is dative of purpose (AG 382), and castrīs, dative of reference.

quod satis esse vīsum est: “which seemed to be sufficient”; the antecedent is praesidiō (L-E).

ālāriōs: the “auxiliaries” as distinguished from the legionary (Roman) troops. They were usually stationed on the wings (ālae) of the line of battle (A-G) when drawn up in order of battle (Anthon). Leaving in each camp a small Roman force, Caesar drew up his ālāriī before the smaller camp in such a manner as to make it appear that the two legions were there still (Moberly).

in cōnspectū hostium: to conceal the fact that the two legions had been withdrawn. At a distance the Germans could not tell the difference between auxiliaries and legionaires. Mean-while the two legions marched out by the rear gate of the camp and secretly joined the four other legions in the larger camp. By this clever ruse, Caesar concealed his weakness in legionaires and concentrated those he had for the battle that he was determined to force (L-E).

prō castrīs minōribus: “before the smaller camp” (Anthon).

quod: sc. id as antecedent; object of relīquit (Kelsey).

minus multitūdine mīlitum legiōnāriōrum … valēbat: “was not strong in the number of legionary soldiers” (H-T); “was weaker in respect to his force … ” (Kelsey); “was less strong [than he wished] … ” (M-T). Multitūdine is ablative of specification (AG 418) (Walker).

prō hostium numerō: “considering the number of the enemy” (Anthon); “in proportion to … ,” “in comparison with … ” (Hodges).

ut … ālāriīs ūterētur: “that he might make use of the auxiliaries” (Anthon). Ūterētur takes ablative (AG 410).

ad speciem: “for [the sake of] appearance” (Anthon); “for show,” i.e., to impress the enemy by a show of numbers (Harkness); “to make a show [of strength] (M-T),” as if the two legions were still there, while in fact they had joined the other force at the greater camp (A-G). Caesar did this in order to hide from the enemy his weakness in heavy infantry; Ariovistus would take the ālāriōs for legiōnāriōs (Kelsey).

triplicī aciē: of the legionaries alone. The six legions in battle array (triplicī aciē) presented a front of more than a mile in length (A-G). There were probably only two cohorts in the rear line, for the reason that one cohort was drawn off for the guard duty indicated earlier (praesidiō castrīs) (Kelsey).

necessāriō: “of necessity” (Kelsey); an adverb, originally ablative absolute of adjective, “it being necessary” (M-T). The necessity seems to have come from the fact that the tactics of the Germans demanded more room than a crowded stronghold could give. Rarely in ancient warfare was a fortified camp assailed. The usual way was to form two battle lines between the fortified camps (A-G). The Germans did not entrench their camps. As Caesar was evidently about to attack them, and as there was no room for a battle-line in their camp, they had to come out. Caesar probably had to make the attack uphill, but there was a great advantage in forcing the enemy to fight at a time when they believed they could not conquer (Walker).

castrīs: sc. ē; ablative of place from which (AG 428.f).

generātim: = per gentēs (Spencer): “by nations,” i.e., by tribes (Anthon), the soldiers of each tribe being formed into a body by themselves (Kelsey). The idea was that kinsmen would fight better side by side (Stock). About 150 years later, Tacitus speaks thus of the Germans: “And what most stimulates their courage is, that their squadrons or battalions, instead of being formed by chance or by a fortuitous gathering, are composed of families and clans. Close by them, too are those dearest to them, so that they hear the shrieks of women, the cries of infants. They are to every man the most sacred witnesses of his bravery, they are his most generous applauders. The soldier brings his wounds to mother and wife, who shrink not from counting or even demanding them, and who administer both food and encouragement to the combatants” (Walker).

Marcomanōs: the “march-men” or “border-folk.” They may have lived anywhere (Stock).

Tribocōs: placed near Strassburg (Stock).

Vangionēs: placed near Worms (Stock).

Nemētēs: placed near Speier on the Rhine (Stock).                               

Sedusiōs: their whereabout is quite uncertain (Stock).

Suēbōs: a generic name; it lives on still in the term Swabian (Schwabe) (Stock).

cōnstituērunt: the Germans faced west, the Romans east. There were probably about 50,000 men under Caesar and a much larger number under Ariovistus (L-E).

paribus intervāllīs: “at equal intervals” (Harkness).

raedīs et carrīs: “with carriages and wagons” (Harkness). Both of these are Gallic terms. The raeda (rhēda) was a kind of four-wheeled chariot for travelling (probably covered, like gypsy wagons (Kelsey)), and was introduced among, and much used by, the Romans also. The raedae appear to have carried the families of the Germans, the two-wheeled carrī carried their baggage and provisions (Anthon).

circumdedērunt: “hemmed in” (Kelsey). The carts and wagons were probably set in a great semicircle, enclosing the troops’ rear and flanks (Hodges).

nē qua spēs in fugā relinquerētur: “that no hope might be left in flight”; negative purpose clause (AG 531). Qua is the indefinite adjective (aliqua); the prefix ali- is dropped when it follows .

eō: = in eīs (Spencer): “on these” (Anthon); “thereon,” i.e., on the carts and wagons” (A-G).

passīs manibus: “with outstretched hands.” Passīs is from pandō, not pateor (H-T). Some MSS read passīs crīnibus, “with disshevelled locks” (Spencer).

proficīscentēs: sc. mīlitēs (Harkness): “[the men] as they advanced”; the object of implōrābant (A-G).

nē … trāderent: substantive clause of purpose, also known as an indirect command (AG 56371) dependent on implōrābant.

in servitūtem: Tacitus (Ger. 8) says that the Germans feared slavery for their women more than for themselves, and that the safest hostages to take from them were noble women (Stock).

sē: “them,” i.e., the women (Harkness).

postrīdiē : adv., on the next day, the day after.

ālārius, -a, -um : belonging to the wing; as subst., m. pl., auxiliary troops, auxiliaries, so called because their proper station in battle was on the wings of the army.

cōnspectus, -ūs m.: sight, appearance; presence.

quod : conj., that, in that, because, since; as to the fact that: the fact that.

legiōnārius, -a, -um : belonging to a legion, legionary.

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.

dēmum : adv., at last, at length.

necessāriō : adv., inevitably, from necessity, necessarily.

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

generātim : adv., by kinds, by tribes.

intervāllum, -ī n.: space between palisades; space, distance, interval.

Harūdēs, -um, m.: pl., the Harudes, a German tribe, originally perhaps living in Jutland.

Marcomannī, -ōrum, m.: pl., the Marcomanni, a tribe of Germans.

Tribocī, -ōrum, m.: pl., the Triboci, a German tribe, perhaps dwelling on both sides of the Rhine.

Vangionēs, -um, m.: pl., the Vangiones, a German tribe.

Nemetēs, -um, m.: pl., the Nemetes, a tribe of Germans, living probably on the left bank of the Rhine.

Sedusiī, -ōrum, m.: pl., the Sedusii, a German tribe.

Suēbī -ōrum m.: the Suebi. The Suebi lived in Germany, but the exact locality is uncertain. Some think that several different German tribes were included under the name

raeda, -ae, f. : wagon, four-wheeled, sometimes covered; traveling-carriage

carrus, -ī, m.: cart, wagon.

circumdō, -dare, -dedī, -datus : put around; surround, encompass.

quī, quae or qua, quod: indef. adj., used chiefly after sī, nisi, nē, num, any, some; the form quī is sometimes used as a substantive, any one, some one.

pandō, pandere, pandī, passus: spread out, extend; passus capillus, disheveled hair.

implōrō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus : beg, entreat.

servitūs, -ūtis f.: servitude, slavery, subjection.


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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.