Eōdem diē ab explōrātōribus certior factus hostēs sub monte cōnsēdisse mīlia passuum ab ipsīus castrīs octō, quālis esset nātūra montis et quālis in circuitū ascēnsus, quī cognōscerent mīsit. Renūntiātum est facilem esse. Dē tertiā vigiliā T. Labiēnum, lēgātum prō praetōre, cum duābus legiōnibus et eīs ducibus quī iter cognōverant summum iugum montis ascendere iubet; quid suī cōnsilī sit ostendit. Ipse dē quārtā vigiliā eōdem itinere quō hostēs ierant ad eōs contendit equitātumque omnem ante sē mittit. P. Considius, quī reī mīlitāris perītissimus habēbātur et in exercitū L. Sullae et posteā in M. Crassī fuerat, cum explōrātōribus praemittitur.
Caesar plans a double attack on the Helvetii.
Chapters 16–20 interrupted the narrative of Caesar’s pursuit of the Helvetians. The events of this chapter follow immediately after those narrated in Chapter 15 (Walker).
eōdem diē: “on the same day” that he had summoned the council of Gallic leaders in camp (see Chapter 16), and had had the interview with Diviciacus and Dumnorix (Kelsey).
explōrātōribus: these were scouting parties; the speculātōrēs were individual spies (L-E).
certior factus hostēs sub monte cōnsēdisse: “having been informed (literally, “made more certain”) that the enemy had encamped.” Certior fīō, like doceor, admits an infinitive (Harkness). After crossing the Saône near Villefranche, the Helvetii had passed by S. Vallier; and now were encamping at the foot of Mont Tauffrin, near Issy l’Evéque. The road up to this point had been one on which no military maneuver was possible (Moberly).
mīlia passuum ab ipsīus castrīs octo: the Helvetians were now in the valley of the Liger (Loire), southeast of Bibracte (Kelsey). Mīlia passuum, “miles,” literally “thousands of paces”; mīlia octo is the accusative of distance/extent of space (AG 425), passuum is partitive genitive (AG 346.2).
ab ipsīus castrīs: sc. Caesaris (Walpole); the antithesis is between his own camp and the enemy’s camp (hostēs consēdisse) (M-T).
quālis esset … (etc.): subjunctive in an indirect question after cognoscerent (AG 574) (A-G).
nātūra: “character” (A-G).
quālis in circuitū ascēnsus: “the ascent from the opposite side,” literally “in the going around” (Kelsey); “what its ascent by a circuitous route [might be]” (A-G), i.e., on the opposite side, away from the enemy, Caesar’s design being to send a detachment to take the enemy in the rear, while he attacked them in front (M-T). Mont Tauffrin was apparently the first height sufficiently parallel with the road to conceal a flank movement slightly to the left of it, made for the purpose of heading the Helvetii and barring the road in advance of them (Moberly).
quī cognōscerent mīsit: “he sent men to ascertain”; the antecedent of quī is explōrātōrēs, eōs, quōsdam, or some such word, to be supplied as the object of mīsit. Such a relative may in Latin always imply its own antecedent, as in English the relatives “whoever” and “what.” Quī cognōscerent is a relative purpose clause (AG 531.2) (A-G). Cognōscere is regular used of military reconnoitering (M-T).
facilem esse: sc. ascensum (A-G).
dē tertiā vigiliā: see Chapter 12: “during (in the course of) the third watch” (L-E); “at the beginning of the third watch,” i.e., at midnight. Dē, when joined with words expressing time, indicates that a part of that time is spent along with the time which follows. Hence Caesar here set out before the third watch was at an end (Spencer). The Romans divided the night into four watches each of three hours. The first began at 6:00 in the evening, the second at 9:00, the third at midnight, and the fourth at 3:00 in the morning (Anthon); the length of each vigilia differed according to the season of the year (Spencer).
itinere quō: “the route by which”; quō is ablative of the way by which/route (AG 429.4a).
lēgātum prō praetōre: The lēgātus ordinarily had no independent military authority, but was the assistant of his general. The title lēgātus prō praetōre applied to Labienus probably indicates that he had received by special enactment the power and rank of propraetor, empowering him to act as Caesar’s substitute when necessary (Hodges).
et eīs ducibus: “and with those persons as guides” (Anthon), with ducibus as a kind of predicate (A-G) in apposition with eīs (Harkness).
quī iter cognōverant: “who knew the way” (Hodges), i.e., those who had been part of the reconnoitering party (explōrātōribus) (A-G).
summum iugum montis: “the highest point of the ridge” (Spencer); “the highest ridge of the elevation,” which was apparently long and uneven (Kelsey).
ascendere: Labienus was to take a circuitous route, and ascend the mountain in the rear of the enemy, so as to fall upon the enemy by surprise when the signal should be given from below. Fault is found with Caesar, however, for not having kept up the communication with Labienus by means of couriers, who could have informed him of all the movements of his lieutenant, and for not having agreed beforehand upon some signal, which was to be given by Labienus when he should have reached the summit of the mountain. These simple precautions would have prevented the failure of the plan (Anthon).
quid suī cōnsiliī sit: = quid dēcrēverit (H-T): “what [the essence of] his plan is” (L-E), literally, “what is of his plan” (Harkness). Observe Caesar’s effective method in narrating: he states here only that he gave Labienus his orders; what these orders were, the sequel brings out in a more telling way than a detailed account of the orders as given would do (Moberly). Cōnsiliī is a predicate genitive (AG 343.b) with sit, and not a partitive genitive depending upon quid (Harkness). Such genitives are not rare in Caesar, and are probably more or less colloquial (A-G).
dē quārtā vigiliā: about 2:00 a.m., the sun at this season rising here about 4:00 (A-G).
equitātum: the cavalry were to feel out the enemy (Kelsey).
reī mīlitāris perītissimus habēbātur: “was reputed [to be] most skilled in military matters” (Walker); Considius’s military experience extended over a long period of years (Hodges). This favorable characterization of Considius is presented as a reason for having sent so unreliable an officer on so important a reconnoiter (Kelsey). Reī mīlitāris is genitive of relation after words signifying “skill” (perītus) (AG 349a).
L. Sullae … M. Crassī: both of high repute as generals (Kelsey); Lucius Cornelius Sulla, for his services first in the war with Jugurtha in Africa, then in the Social War, and in the East against Mithridates about thirty years before (88-84 B.C.) (Kelsey) and Marcus Licinius Crassus, the distinguished commander in the Servile War, who defeated and slew Spartacus (71 B.C.) (Harkness).
in M. Crassī: sc. exercitū (A-G). During the Servile War in Crassus’ army Considius then had experience of a Gallic enemy, as the slave army consisted of Gauls and Germans (Stock). The sequel will show that Considius mistook Labienus and his men for Gauls (Walpole).
explōrātor, -ōris m.: explorer; scout.
cōnsīdō, -sīdere, -sēdī, -sessus : take a seat; settle, make a home; pitch camp; take a position, station oneself; hold a meeting.
passus, -ūs m.: step, pace; double step (five Roman feet); mīlle passūs, mile; duo mīlia passuum, two miles. See mīlle.
octō (viii); octāvus, -a, -um : indecl. adj., eight; eighth
circuitus, -ūs m.: going around, way around, circuit, roundabout way; distance around.
ascēnsus, -ūs m.: ascent, way up.
renūntiō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus : bring back word, announce, report; declare elected.
vigilia, -ae f.: wake-fulness, watching, keeping guard; guard: watch as a measure of time, the time from sunset to sunrise being divided into four equal watches.
Titus -ī m.: Titus (name), abbreviated "T."
Labiēnus, -ī, m.: Labienus, a Roman cognomen; Titus Atius Labienus, Caesar's most trusted legate during the Gallic War. He fought against Caesar in the Civil War.
praetor, -ōris m. : leader, commander; praetor; prō praetōre, acting as praetor, of praetorian rank, propraetor
contendō, -tendere, -tendī, -tentus : strain, exert oneself; strive for, attempt, try; hasten, press forward; contend, vie; join battle, fight, quarrel; insist; demand.
equitātus, -ūs m.: cavalry, body of horsemen.
Publius -iī m.: Publius (name) abbreviated "P."
Cōnsidius, -ī, m.: Considius, a Roman nomen; Publius Considius, an officer in Caesar's army.
mīlitāris, -e : of a soldier; belonging to military service, military; rēs mīlitāris, art of war.
perītus, -a, -um : experienced, acquainted with; skilled, skilful.
Lūcius -iī m.: Lucius (name) abbreviated "L."
Sulla, -ae, m.: Sulla, a Roman cognomen; Lucius Cornelius Sulla (Felix), born 138 b.c., died 78 b.c. He was the bitter enemy of Marius, and leader of the aristocratic party.
M.: the abbreviation for the praenomen Mārcus, Marcus, Mark.
Crassus, -ī, m.: Crassus, a Roman cognomen: (1) Marcus Licinius Crassus, the triumvir, consul in 55 b.c. See Introd., p. 11. (2) Marcus Licinius Crassus, son of (1). He was quaestor with Caesar. (3) Publius Licinius Crassus, a younger son of (1). He was one of Caesar's officers.
praemittō, -mittere, -mīsī, -missus : send ahead, send forward.