Chapter 1.53

Ita proelium restitūtum est, atque omnēs hostēs terga vertērunt necque prius fugere dēstitērunt quam ad flūmen Rhēnum mīlia passuum ex eō locō circiter quīnque pervēnērunt. Ibi perpaucī aut vīribus cōnfīsī trānāre contendērunt aut lintribus inventīs sibi salūtem repperērunt. In hīs fuit Ariovistus, quī nāviculam dēligātam ad rīpam nactus eā profūgit; reliquōs omnēs equitatū cōnsecūtī nostrī interfēcērunt. Duae fuērunt Ariovistī uxōrēs, ūna Suēba nātiōne, quam domō sēcum dūxerat, altera Nōrica, rēgis Voccīonis soror, quam in Galliā dūxerat ā frātre missam: utraque in eā fugā perieruntt; duae fīliae: hārum altera occīsa, altera capta est. C. Valerius Procillus, cum ā custōdibus in fugā trīnīs catēnīs vīnctus traherētur, in ipsum Caesarem hostēs equitātū persequentem incīdit. Quae quidem rēs Caesarī nōn minōrem quam ipsa victōria voluptātem attulit, quod hominem honestissimum prōvinciae Galliae, suum familiārem et hospitem, ēreptum e manibus hostium sibi restitūtum vidēbat neque eius calamitāte dē tantā voluptāte et grātulātiōne quicquam fortūna dēminuerat. Is sē praesente dē sē ter sortibus cōnsultum dīcēbat utrum ignī statim necārētur an in aliud tempus reservārētur: sortium beneficiō sē esse incolumem. Item M. Metius repertus et ad eum reductus est. 

Caesar defeats the Germans and pursues them to the Rhine. Procillus and Mettius are recovered.

proelium restitūtum est, atque omnēs hostēs terga vertērunt: “first the battle was restored, and then (atque) the enemy were entirely put to flight” (Moberly).

proelium restitūtum est: “the tide of battle was turned” (Hodges), contrasted with labōrantibus at the end of Chapter 52 (A-G). The language implies that the Roman left wing was ceasing to fight when the reserves were sent to its aid (Kelsey).

omnēs hostēs: as the Germans had no reserves, they fled en masse when the phalanx was broken (L-E). Omnēs is emphatic (Walpole).

terga vertērunt: the line of wagons (see Chapter 51) might hinder their flight, but could not entirely prevent it. It is possible, too, that during the battle the Germans had advanced so far that there was space enough for flight between the wagons and the German line (Walker).

prius fugere dēstitērunt quam: “they did not cease to flee until”; prius and quam are separated by tmesis (Anthon).

Rhēnum: the nearest point on this river was a little below Bâle, somewhat more than five miles distant from the supposed place of the engagement (A-G).

mīlia passuum quinque: A flight and pursuit of fifty miles seems improbable (Kelsey), but some MSS. read quīnquāgintā chiefly on the strength of a passage in Plutarch’s Life of Caesar, which says that the flight extended over three hundred to four hundred stadia, i.e., forty to fifty miles. Most editions have quīnque or quīndecim instead of quīnquāgintā (Harkness), which perhaps better satisfies the geographical conditions. If we adopt the reading quīnquāgintā, we must assume that the Germans did not make directly for the Rhine, but rather fled down the banks of the Ill, meeting the Rhine near Rheinau (M-T). If this battle was fought between Ostheim and Gemar, on the left bank of the Fecht, the distance to the Rhine at its nearest point was twelve or fifteen miles. Some authorities think that Caesar mistook the Ill for the Rhine (Hodges).

vīribus cōnfīsī: “relying on their strength” (H-T). Vīribus is ablative (AG 431) (L-E), dependent on cōnfīsī, a deponent participle (AG 190 b) (M-T).

trānāre contendērunt: “by great effort swam across” (A-G); “managed to swim over” (Moberly).

lintribus inventīs: “by means of boats which chanced to be at hand,” literally, “by boats [that were] found” (Harkness).

salūtem repperērunt: “reached a place of safety” (Moberly).

inventīs, repperērunt: Inveniō means “to find without seeking, to meet with accidentally,” while reperiō means “to find by seeking, to obtain by effort.” This sentence is a good illustration of the use of these two synonyms (Harkness).

in hīs fuit Ariovistus: he died soon after in Germany, either of his wounds, or through chagrin at his defeat. See Book 5, Chapter 29: Magnō esse Germānīs dolōrī Ariovistī mortem (Anthon). Four years later we hear that the Germans desired to avenge his death (Walker).

nactus: “coming upon” (Kelsey); deponent participle of nancīscor.

eā: “with this,” i.e., with the nāvicula (Harkness); ablative of means (AG 409) (Walker).

reliquōs omnēs: 80,000 are said to have perished in the battle and retreat, according to Plutarch (Hodges).

cōnsecūtī … interfēcērunt: “our cavalry pursued and killed.”

duae fuērunt Ariovistī uxōrēs: the Germans in general, according to Tacitus (Ger. 18), had but one wife each. In the case of their chieftains, however, who were anxious to strengthen and enlarge their power by family alliances, more than one wife was allowed (Anthon).

Suēba nātiōne: “a Suebian by nation” (Harkness); “a Swabian by descent” (L-E); “ … by birth” (Kelsey). For character and customs of the Suebi see Book 4, Chapters 1-3 (A-G). Nātiōne is ablative of specification (AG 418) (Walker).

dūxerat: sc. in mātrimōnium: “had married” (H-T).

ā frātre missam: “sent by her brother [for this purpose, viz. to marry Ariovistus]” (L-E).

utraque in eā fugā periit: sparing women and children was no part of Caesar’s military code (Moberly).

duae fīliae hārum: sc. uxōrum; in apposition with altera, altera (Harkness): “of their two daughters, one was slain, the other captured.” This nominative absolute is a Greek construction, instead of the partitive genitive (H-T); it is the general nominative (duae fīliae) being immediately broken into two particular ones (altera … altera) (Moberly).

occīsa: sc. est (Kelsey).

C. Valerius Procillus: see Chapter 47 (A-G).

trīnīs catēnīs vīnctus: “bound with three [sets of] manacles” (A-G); “bound with a triple chain” (Anthon). When the noun is already plural in sense, like catēnae, or has no singular, the distributive numeral is appropriate (Stock). Don’t confuse the principal parts of vīnciō, vincō, and vīvō (Kelsey).

traherētur: “was being dragged along” (Kelsey).

in ipsum Caesarem … incīdit: “fell in with Caesar himself” (Anthon); “fell into the hands of Caesar himself” (Harkness); “fell in the way of” (Kelsey); “was casually overtaken by Caesar himself” (Moberly).

hostēs: the object of īnsequentem (Kelsey): “who was pursuing the enemy” (L-E).

equitātū: ablative of means (AG ) rather than accompaniment; hence without cum (Harkness).

quae quidem rēs: quae rēs = et illa rēs, referring to the rescue of his faithful friend Procillus (Harkness). Quidem adds emphasis to quae: “and it was this circumstance that … .” (M-T).

voluptātem attulit: these generous words do credit to Caesar’s heart and let us into the secret of his wonderful influence over all who came into close contact with him (L-E).

honestissimum: “very honorable,” not “honest” in the narrower sense (Hodges).

hospitem: “guest-friend” (Kelsey). Between a Roman and a foreigner, a compact of private hospitium gave each a claim on the other’s hospitality, protection, and good services. The bond was consecrated by religious ceremony, and was often hereditary (M-T).

ēreptum, restitūtum: sc. esse to both (Kelsey). The former of these participles is adjectival to the latter: “restored to him safe from the hands of the enemy” (Moberly).

neque … quicquam fortūna dēminuerat: “nor had fortune at all diminished,” more literally, “and fortune had not taken away anything from” (Anthon). Quicquam is adverbial accusative (AG 390 c) (A-G).

eius calamitāte: a euphemism for morte (H-T): “by his death” (Harkness); “by his destruction” (Kelsey); “by any harm to him”; “by his distress / suffering” (Spencer). Eius refers to Procillus (A-G).

dē tantā voluptāte: “from the general pleasure” (Moberly); “from the great joy” (Spencer); “from the great satisfaction” (Walker).

grātulātiōne: in a passive sense (Walpole): “[reason for] thankfulness” (Kelsey); “occasion of congratulation” (M-T); “rejoicing” (Spencer).

sē praesente: “in his presence” (A-G); “while he was standing by” (L-E), construed with cōnsultum (Harkness). Notice the repetition of the pronoun in two different constructions, this ablative absolute (AG 419) and the prepositional phrase dē sē that immediately follows it, instead of the terser but less emphatic dē sē praesente (M-T).

ter sortibus cōnsultum: sc. esse: “that the lots were thrice consulted” (Kelsey); “that consultation had been held three times,” “that the gods had been consulted three times” (Hodges). Cōnsultum is impersonal (Harkness), literally, “it was consulted”; sortibus is ablative of means (AG 409) (Hodges). It was the regular usage of the Germans to consult the lots three times (A-G). Probably three was a sacred and mystical number with the Germans, as it was among several other ancient nations (H-T). Tacitus (Ger. 8) describes the German mode of divining by lots as follows: “They cut a twig from a fruit tree, and divide it into small pieces, which, distinguished by certain marks, are thrown randomly upon a white garment. Then the priest of the canton, if the occasion be public; if private, the master of the family; after an invocation of the gods, with his eyes lifted up to heaven, thrice takes out each piece, and, as they come up, interprets their signification according to the marks fixed upon them. If the result prove unfavorable they are no more consulted on the same affair that day; if propitious, a confirmation by omens is still required” (Anthon).

utrum … necārētur … an … reservārētur: “[as to] whether he should be killed … or should be saved up … ” (Hodges). Indirect double question (AG 575), but the subjunctive is actually due to the fact that, in direct discourse, it was a deliberative subjunctive, necētur (AG 443) (A-G).

sortium beneficiō: “by the favor of the lots” (Anthon). The lots had decided that he should be reserved for later (Hodges) rather than burned to death on the spot.

sē esse incolumem: “that he was unharmed” (Kelsey).

M. Mettius: see Chapter 47 (Kelsey).

eum: = Caesarem (Kelsey).

The site of the battle with Ariovistus is still uncertain. The account of Caesar’s march would seem to point to some place from thirty to fifty miles beyond Belfort, and accordingly it has been located by some near Cernay and by others near Gemar, twenty miles farther down the valley. Perhaps it may have been even nearer the gap than Cernay. The country is nearly the same in all that region, and a few miles can make no difference. The great point is that for the first time a Roman army ventured beyond one of the natural bounds of Gaul into the valley of the Rhine and defeated a German horde on its own ground, as it were. The campaign against Ariovistus settled the question of sovereignty over Gaul for several centuries to come. The Germans did not gain possession of it until after the fall of the western Roman empire (A-G).

restituō, -stituere, -stituī, -stitūtus : restore, renew, reinstate; begin again; give back, deliver up, return; rebuild.

priusquam : conj., earlier than, sooner than, before; also prius . . . quam.

dēsistō, -sistere, -stitī, -stitus : stand away, aesist, give up, leave off, cease.

priusquam : conj., earlier than, sooner than, before; also prius . . . quam.

Rhēnus, -ī, m.: the Rhine, a large river forming the boundary between Gaul and Germany.

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

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

quīnque (v); quīntus, -a, -um : indecl. adj., five; fifth

perpaucī, -ae, -a : pl. adj., very few.

cōnfīdō, -fīdere, -fīsus : have confidence in, rely upon, trust, believe; hope.

trānō, -āre, -āvī : swim over, swim across.

contendō, -tendere, -tendī, -tentus : strain, exert oneself; strive for, attempt, try; hasten, press forward; contend, vie; join battle, fight, quarrel; insist; demand.

linter, -tris, f.: boat, skiff.

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

nāvicula, -ae f.: small vessel, skiff, boat.

dēligō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus : tie down, make fast, fasten, moor.

nancīscor, nancīscī, nactus or nanctus: get, obtain, secure, meet with, find.

profugiō, -fugere, -fūgī : flee forth, escape.

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

nostri -orum m. pl.: our men

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

Suēbus, -a, -um: Sueban, of 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.

nātiō, -ōnis f.: race, tribe, people, nation.

Nōricus, -a, -um: pertaining to the Norici, Norican; as subst., f., a Norican woman; m. pl., the Norici, a tribe living near the Danube.

Vocciō, -ōnis, m.: Voccio, a king of the Norici.

Gāius -iī m.: Gaius (name), abbreviated "C."

Valerius, -ī, m.: Valerius, a Roman nomen: (1) Gaius Valerius Flaccus, governor of Gaul in 83 b.c.; (2) Gaius Valerius Caburus, a Gaul who received Roman citizenship from (1); (3) Gaius Valerius Procillus and (4) Gaius Valerius Domnotaurus, sons of (2); (5) Lucius Valerius Praeconinus, a legate who was killed in Aquitania a few years before 56 b.c.; (6) Gaius Valerius Troucillus, a prominent Gaul of the province, friendly to Caesar. See also Messāla.

Procillus, -ī, m.: Procillus, a Roman cognomen; see Valerius.

trīnī, -ae, -a : pl. adj., three at a time, three each; threefold; three.

catēna, -ae, f.: chain, fetter.

vinciō, vincīre, vinxī, vinctus : bind, fetter.

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

persequor, -sequī, -secūtus : follow up, chase, hunt down; press upon, proceed against; resent, avenge.

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

familiāris, -e m.: intimate friend, associate

restituō, -stituere, -stituī, -stitūtus : restore, renew, reinstate; begin again; give back, deliver up, return; rebuild.

calamitās, -ātis, f.: loss, injury, disaster; overthrow, defeat.

grātulātiō, -ōnis f.: rejoicing, joy, congratulation.

dēminuō, -minuere, -minuī, -minūtus : make less, diminish, reduce; impair; take away.

praesum, -esse, -fuī : be before, be set over, be in command of.

ter : adv., three times.

necō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus : kill, slay, destroy.

reservō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus : keep back, reserve, keep.

incolumis, -e: uninjured, safe, unimpaired.

M.: the abbreviation for the praenomen Mārcus, Marcus, Mark.

Mettius, -ī, m.: Mettius, a Roman nomen; Marcus Mettius, a man whom Caesar sent as an envoy to Ariovistus.

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.