Chapter 1.9

Relinquēbātur ūna per Sēquanōs via, quā Sēquanīs invītīs propter angustiās īre nōn poterant. Hīs cum suā sponte persuādēre nōn possent, lēgātōs ad Dumnorigem Aeduum mittunt, ut eō dēprecātōre ā Sēquanīs impetrārent. Dumnorix grātiā et largītiōne apud Sēquanōs plūrimum poterat, et Helvētiīs erat amīcus, quod ex eā cīvitāte Orgetorigis fīliam in mātrimōnium dūxerat et, cupiditāte rēgnī adductus novīs rēbus studēbat et quam plūrimās cīvitātēs suō beneficiō habēre obstrictās volēbat. Itaque rem suscipit et ā Sēquanīs impetrat ut per fīnēs suōs Helvētiōs īre patiantur, obsidēsque utī inter sēsē dent perficit: Sēquanī, nē itinere Helvētiōs prohibeant; Helvētiī, ut sine maleficiō et iniūriā trānseant. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

The Helvetians obtain permission from the Sequani to pass through their country.

relinquēbātur: “there was left” (Kelsey)

ūna per Sēquanōs via: ūna is emphatic (A-G): “one, and only one way, through the Sequani” (M-T) (see Chapter 6 (Kelsey)), i.e., the narrow pass along the right bank of the Rhone, between the mountains and the river (Harkness). The order of words is noticeable: per Sēquanōs separates the adjective ūna from its noun via, to show that the prepositional phrase qualifies the noun and not the verb relinquēbātur (M-T).

quā: “and by this” (Walker); ablative of route / way by which (AG 429.4a) (A-G).

Sequanīs invītīs: ablative absolute expressing a condition (AG 420.4), “in case the Sequani were unwilling” (A-G); “against the Sequanians’ will,” “if the Sequani should refuse” (L-E); “without the leave of the Sequani” (M-T).

propter angustiās: “on account of the narrowness of the pass” (Anthon). The Pas de l’Écluse, nineteen Roman miles from Geneva; at this point the Sequani, if so disposed, could easily stop the progress of the Helvetii (Hodges).

hīs cum … persuādēre nōn possent: “since they could not persuade them” (L-E); “not being able to persuade them”; the position of hīs emphasizes its connecting force (Hodges); hīs is the dative object of persuādere (AG 367). The conjunction cum with a subjunctive puts before us the circumstances in which the action represented by the principal verb takes place, whereas cum with the indicative tells only how one action is related to another with regard to the time of its occurrence (AG 549) (Holmes).

suā sponte: = per sē: “of themselves,” i.e., by their own unaided efforts (Harkness), by the means they had at their command (Spencer); “on their own responsibility” (M-T); “by their own influence,” a rare meaning of this phrase (A-G). Sponte and spondeō belong to the same root. Two uses of the phrase suā sponte are to be distinguished, as equivalent to (1) “voluntarily,” of an action not forced on the actors by others; (2) “singly” of an action done without others’ help. The latter, which is the rarer use, belongs to this passage (M-T).

Dumnorigem: A fuller account of Dumnorix is given in Chapter 18, where we learn that he had practical control of the revenues of the Aeduans and was bitterly opposed to Caesar (Kelsey). He is mentioned in 3.13 as having conspired with Orgetorix; although that plot had failed, he was still seeking a chance to make himself king (Walker).

eō dēprecātōre: ablative absolute denoting means (AG 420): literally “he being the intercessor,” i.e., through his intervention or mediation (Anthon); “by his intercession” (M-T); “by his means as advocate” (A-G). A dēprecātor is literally an “agent or “doer” (-tor) who “prays away” (dē + precor) or averts something; in this case Dumnorix is to try to overcome the refusal of the Sequani to allow the Helvetii to pass (Hodges).  

ut impetrārent: sc. hoc, as referring to the passage through their territories (Anthon): “that they might obtain [it, what they wanted]” (Moberley); purpose clause (AG 531); impetrārent is imperfect subjunctive depending on mittunt, the historical present (AG 485) (Spencer).

grātiā et largitiōne: “on account of his popularity and generosity” (Harkness); “by personal influence and by lavish gifts and hospitalities,” like those of old chiefs of the clan (A-G); ablatives of cause (AG 404).

plūrimum poterat: sc. facere: literally “he was able to a very great degree” (Kelsey); “he could [accomplish] very much” (Anthon); “he had very great influence” (Harkness).

Helvētiīs: dative with amīcus (AG 384), “friendly with the Helvetians.”

eā cīvitāte: = eōrum cīvitāte (H-T).

in mātrimōnium dūxerat: “he had married,” literally “had led into matrimony.” The Romans said in mātrimōnium dūcere and uxōrem dūcere, “to marry a wife,” because the female was conducted, as a part of the ceremony, from her father’s house to that of her husband. Hence uxōrem dūcere is for uxōrem domum dūcere, literally, “to lead a wife home.” So again, in speaking of a female taking a husband, the Latin writers employ the verb nubō. Thus virō nubere, “to marry a husband.” Here the ellipsis is sē virō nūbere, literally “to veil herself for a husband,” alluding to the bride’s wearing a flame-colored veil during the marriage ceremony (Anthon).

cupiditāte rēgnī: rēgnī is objective genitive (AG 348): “his lust for sovereignty,” i.e. his desire to rule.

novīs rēbus studēbat: “was anxious for revolution” (Moberly), “was eager for a change in the government” (L-E), i.e., was plotting a revolution in the state (Anthon); rēs novae is the idiom for “revolution,” literally “new things” (A-G), a change in the state of political affairs (M-T). Studeō takes a dative object (AG 366).

suō beneficiō: “by benefits conferred by himself” (M-T); “by reason of his kind offices towards them” (Anthon); ablative of cause (AG 404) or means (AG 409).

quam plūrimās cīvitātēs: “as many states as possible” (Hodges): quam together with a superlative denotes the highest possible degree, “as … as possible” (AG 291).

habēre obstrictās: sc. sibi: “to keep closely bound to himself” (A-G); “to have under obligations” (L-E). He wished to have these states under strong obligations to himself, in order that they might aid him in his ambitious designs (Anthon). This use of habēre is an anticipation of the part the verb “to have” was to hold in verbal conjugation; habēre obstrictās differs from obstrinxisse in the fact that the notion contained in the participle is looked upon as a possession (H-T).

itaque: “accordingly” (Kelsey).

rem suscipit: rem = lēgātiōnem (L-E): “he undertakes the affair,” i.e. the negotiation between both parties, the Helvetii and the Sequani (Anthon).

impetrat: “he obtained a promise” (Kelsey); “he gets the Sequani to permit” (L-E).

ut … patiantur: substantive result clause (AG 568), the object of impetrat, as is obsidēs uti … dent of perficit. The arrangement of these clauses illustrates the chiastic order, named from the Greek letter chi (Χ) (Hodges).

perficit: has for its object uti … dent, a substantive result clause (AG 568) (A-G): literally, “he causes that they (the Helvetii and the Sequani) may give,” “he causes them to exchange” (Harkness); “he brought about an exchange of hostages” (Kelsey).

obsidēs: hostages, usually children of prominent persons (A-G), were exchanged as a pledge of good faith; if the agreement were violated, they were liable to be put to death with tortures (Kelsey).

Sēquanī, Helvētiī: in partitive apposition with the implied subject of dent (Hodges), to be supplied from the preceding line; sc. obsidēs as the object of dent (Anthon). He causes them to exchange hostages, the Sequani pledging not to obstruct the Helvetii, the Helvetii pledging to pass through without doing any damage (Hodges).

nē … prohibeant … ut … transeant: purpose clauses with subjunctive (AG 531) expressing the terms of the agreement for the ratification of which the exchange of hostages was arranged (Kelsey), dependent on the idea of agreement implied in obsidēs … dent (A-G).

itinere: ablative of separation (AG 400) (A-G).

Sēquanī, -ōrum m. : the Sequani, a tribe of eastern Gaul, west of the Jura Mountains

invītus, -a, -um: against one's will, under compulsion, unwilling; sometimes to be trans. as adv., unwillingly.

angustiae, -ārum f.: pl., narrowness, narrow place, narrow pass, defile; difficulty, perplexity.

spontis f.: gen., found only in the gen. and abl. sing., free will; suā sponte, of his (their) own accord, voluntarily; also sometimes by his (their) own influence.

persuādeō, -suādēre, -suāsī, -suāsus : persuade, induce, prevail upon; convince.

Dumnorīx, -īgis m.: Dumnorix, an Aeduan, brother of Diviciacus.

Aeduus, -a, -um : Aeduan; as subst., m., an Aeduan; pl., the Aedui, a prominent tribe of Gaul, usually friendly to the Romans.

dēprecātor, -ōris m. : intercessor, mediator.

impetrō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus : accomplish; ask and receive, obtain on request, get.

largītiō, -ōnis f.: lavish giving, bribery.

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.

multum : adv., much, greatly; much of the time, often; nōn ita multum, not very long.

Helviī, -ōrum, m.: pl., the Helvii, a small Gallic tribe in the Roman province.

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

Orgetorīx, -īgis, m.: Orgetorix, a Helvetian nobleman.

mātrimōnium, -ī n.: marriage; in mātrimōnium dare, give in marriage; in mātrimōnium dūcere, marry, take as wife.

cupiditās, -ātis f.: eagerness, readiness; longing, greed, desire.

obstringō, -stringere, -strīnxī, -strictus : bind; lay under obligations.

obses, -sidis m. and f.: hostage.

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

maleficium, -ī n.: wicked deed, mischief, harm.

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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.