Chapter 5.42

Ab hāc spē repulsī Nerviī vāllō pedum X et fossā pedum XV hīberna cingunt. Haec et superiōrum annōrum cōnsuētūdine ā nōbīs cōgnōverant et quōsdam dē exercitū habēbant captīvōs ab eīs docēbantur; sed nūllā ferrāmentōrum cōpiā quae esset ad hunc ūsum idōnea, gladiīs caespitēs circumcīdere, manibus sagulīsque terram exhaurīre cogēbantur. Quā quidem ex rē hominum multitūdo cōgnōscī potuit: nam minus hōrīs tribus mīlium in circuitū III mūnītiōnem perfēcērunt; reliquīsque diēbus turrēs ad altitūdinem vāllī, falcēs testūdinēsque, quās īdem captīvī docuerant, parāre āc facere coepērunt.

The Nervii adapt Roman siege methods. 

vallo pedum X et fossa pedum XV: The palisade and the earth rampart on which it was erected were 10 Roman feet high; the ditch was 15 feet wide (Gaisser) ( A&G 425).

nulla…copia: ablative of cause: 'because of no supply' (Gaisser) ( A&G 404).

manibus sagulisque…exhaurire: 'to dig out with their hands and [carry] in their cloaks'. (Allen & Greenough); A case of zeugma (Allen & Judson).

minus horis tribus: in less than three hours (Gaisser) ( A&G 407.c, 423).

ad: ad here…means ‘in proportion to,’ not ‘up to,’ for the towers would have been useless unless they had been higher than the rampart. (Rice Holmes)

testudines: sappers' huts, used for protecting soldiers when they were filling up ditches, undermining walls, &c. (Rice Holmes); an appropriate term for a Roman siege maneuver. The soldiers would move forward in a closely-packed group, those in the center holding their shields over their heads, and those on the outside holding theirs upright. A similar effect could be achieved with a wooden cover mounted on wheels, which is probably meant here. The group was thus protected like a tortoise in its shell. The Gauls had learned this device from the Romans (Gaisser).

rěpello, rěpellěre, reppuli, rěpulsum: to drive, crowd, thurst back; reject

vallum, i n.: earthworks, rampart, palisade

hībernus, -a, -um: referring to winter; hīberna, -ōrum n.: winter quarters

consǔētūdo, -ǐnis f.: custom, habit, use

ferrāmentum, i n.: an implement or tool of iron

ĭdōnĕus, -a, -um: suitable

caespěs, -ǐtis: a turf, sod; hut

circumcīdo, -ĕre, -cīdi, -cīsum: cut out, isolate

săgŭlum, -i n.: military cloak

exhaurĭo, -īre, -hausi, -stum: remove

circŭĭtus, -ūs m.: periphery, circumference

mūnītǐo, -ōnis f.: a defending, fortifying, fortification

perfǐcǐo, - ficěre, -fēci, -fectum: to achieve, execute, carry out

turris, -is f.: tower; siege tower

altǐtūdo, -dǐnis f.: height or depth

falx, -cis f.: scythe; grappling hook

testūdo, -ǐnis: sappers' hut; a tortoise; tortoise-shell

pǎrō, -āre: to make ready, prepare

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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. http://dcc.dickinson.edu/caesar/book-5/chapter-5-42