Chapter 1.25

Caesar prīmum suō, deinde omnium ex cōnspectū remōtīs equīs, ut aequātō omnium perīculō spem fugae tolleret, cohortātus suōs proelium commīsit. Mīlitēs ē locō superiōre pīlīs missīs facile hostium phalangem perfrēgērunt. Eā disiectā gladiīs dēstrictīs in eōs impetum fēcērunt. Gallīs magnō ad pugnam erat impedīmentō quod plūribus eōrum scūtīs ūnō ictū pīlōrum trānsfīxīs et colligātis, cum ferrum sē īnflexisset, neque ēvellere neque sinistrā impedītā satis commodē pugnāre poterant; multī ut diū iactātō bracchiō praeoptārent scūtum manū ēmittere et nūdō corpore pugnāre. Tandem vulneribus dēfessī et pedem referre et, quod mōns suberat circiter mīlle passuum, eō sē recipere coepērunt. Captō monte et succēdentibus nostrīs, Boiī et Tulingī, quī hominum mīlibus circiter XV agmen hostium claudēbant et novissimīs praesidiō erant, ex itinere nostrōs latere apertō aggressī circumvenīre, et id cōnspicātī Helvētiī, quī in montem sēsē recēperant, rūrsus īnstāre et proelium redintegrāre coepērunt. Rōmānī conversa signa bipertītō intulērunt: prīma et secunda aciēs, ut victīs ac submōtīs resisteret, tertia, ut venientēs sustinēret.

    The Romans charge, forcing the Helvetians back.

    suō: sc. equō remōtō from remōtīs equīs (Harkness): “sending away first his own horse” (L-E). This was often done before an engagement (A-G). Plutarch (Caesar, Chap. 18) says: “When his horse was brought to him, he exclaimed, ‘When I have conquered I will use it for the pursuit, but now let us go against the enemy,’ and on foot he charged them” (H-T).

    omnium: governed by equīs: “then those of all” (H-T), i.e., of all the officers, personal staff, and other persons of distinction, not, of course, of the cavalry (Harkness). Caesar wished in part to encourage his men by showing that the officers shared their danger, and in part to prevent some timid tribune from setting an example flight (Walker). Notice that the possessive genitive and the possessive adjective (suō) have the same sense, and so many be coordinated (A-G).

    aequātō omnium perīculō: “by equalizing the danger to all” (Kelsey); the officers of all ranks in the Roman army seem to have done more fighting than is expected of the officers in modern armies (L-E). Omnium is objective genitive (AG 348) with perīculō.

    cohortātus: “having harangued,” or “harangued and … ” The allocūtiō, or harangue, was customary at the beginning of a battle. A skillful orator like Caesar would be able to rouse his troops to a high pitch of fervor (L-E).

    locō superiōre: sc. ē: “from their higher position,” i.e., from the slope of the hill (Anthon). The higher position of the Romans gave them a decided advantage (L-E). Ablative of place from which (AG 428 f, g) with missīs.

    pilīs: “javelins” or “darts” of which each soldier had two (Harkness). The shaft of the pīlum was partly square, and five or six feet in length; the head, nine inches long, was of iron, and jagged or barbed at the end, so as to be exceedingly difficult to draw out. The pīlum was used either to throw or thrust with, and it was peculiar to the Romans (Spencer).

    phalangem perfrēgērunt: “broke up the phalanx” (Hodges).

    eā disiectā: ea refers to phalangem (Harkness): “having thrown this (formation) into disorder” (Kelsey).

    gladiīs dēstrictīs: “with swords drawn”; ablative of means (AG 409) (Harkness).

    eōs: referring to hostium (Harkness).

    impetum fēcērunt: “they charged” (Anthon). The first-line soldiers probably allowed the Helvetians to approach within 60 feet before hurling their javelins and charging (Kelsey).

    Gallīs magnō … erat impedīmentō: Gallīs = Helvētiīs (Walpole): “it was a great hindrance to the Gauls”; “it proved a great hindrance to the Gauls” (Anthon). The “double dative” construction (AG 382):  impedimentō is dative of service / purpose, Gallīs is dative of reference / person affected (A-G): The subject of erat is the clause quod plūribus … poteran (Harkness).

    ad pugnam: “in fighting” (Kelsey); “as regarded the fight” (Anthon); “in the way of their fighting” (Moberly).

    plūribus eōrum scūtīs ūnō ictū pīlōrum trānsfīxīs et conligātis: “several of their shields being transfixed and pinned together by a single blow of the javelins.” Bear in mind that their shields were locked together above their heads and lapped considerably over one another; hence a javelin cast down from a higher place would pierce through more than one, and in this way fasten them together (Anthon). The scūtum is a large, oblong shield, four feet in length and two and one-half in width (Harkness).

    ferrum sē īnflexisset: subjunctive in a cum-causal clause (A-G): “since the [point of the] iron had bent itself,” i.e., had become bent (Kelsey). Ferrum refers to the soft iron shank connecting the head with the shaft (Hodges), long enough to pierce two or more overlapping shields and made of soft metal so that it would bend easily; the hard barbed point also hindered withdrawal (Kelsey).

    ēvellere: sc. id, as the object, referring to ferrum (Hodges) or ea, referring to pīla (Walker): “to pull [it / them] out” (Kelsey).

    sinistrā impedītā: ablative absolute with causal force (Hodges): “the left hand being thus impeded” (Anthon); “since the left hand was hampered” (A-G). The buckler was fastened to the left arm (Harkness).

    neque … satis commodē pugnāre poterant: “and they were unable to make battle with sufficient advantage” (Anthon).

    multī ut praeoptārent: “so that many [of them] preferred / chose”; multī being placed first for emphasis (A-G); one would normally expect the conjunction ut to stand first in its clause (L-E). Ut with subjunctive, a result clause (AG 537).

    diū iactātō bracchiō: “after having for a long time tossed their arms to and fro” (Anthon); “having jerked their arms back and forth” in an effort to pull the bent javelin head out of their shields (Kelsey) and so tear the shields apart (Walker).

    scūtum manū ēmittere: “to drop their shields (Moberly). Manū is ablative of separation (AG 400) with ēmittere (Hodges).

    nūdō corpore: “with the body unprotected,” (not “naked” (Hodges)), i.e., without a shield (Harkness), “defenseless” (L-E). Ablative of manner (AG 412).

    vulneribus dēfessī: “exhausted from their wounds” (Kelsey); vulneribus is an ablative of cause (AG 404).

    pedem referre: “to fall back”, i.e., facing the foe; terga vertere means “to run away” (Hodges); “to give ground” (L-E); “to retreat,” literally, “to carry back the foot.” The Helvetians retreated in good order to a hill nearby, on which they reformed their phalanx (L-E).

    mōns suberat: “there was a mountain nearby” (Harkness), southwest of the hill of Armecy (Kelsey).

    circiter passuum spatiō mīlle: “at about a mile’s distance” (Kelsey); “about a mile off” (Harkness); mille is accusative of distance / extent of space (AG 425) (A-G). Spatiō is the ablative of degree of difference (AG 414) (Walker). Mille must be taken as a substantive on which passuum depends as a partitive genitive (AG 346), contrary to its general adjectival use (L-E), viz. mille passūs. Circiter is an adverb (Walker).

    eō: adverb, “thither,” i.e., to the mountain (Harkness).

    sē recipere: “to retreat” (Kelsey).

    captō monte: sc. ab eīs (Hodges): “when the mountain had been reached” (Kelsey); i.e., after the Helvetii had gained the mountain and the Romans were going up to attack them (A-G). The Montagne du Chateau de la Garde, a little east of Autun and north of the road on which the armies were marching (Moberly).

    succēdentibus nostrīs: “and our men were advancing up it” (L-E).

    hominum mīlibus circiter XV: Mīlibus is the “military ablative” (AG 413 a): the ablative is used without cum in some military phrases.  Hominum is partitive genitive with mīlibus (AG 346).

    agmen … claudēbant: “closed the enemy’s line of march,” i.e., formed the rear-guard of the enemy (Spencer); “were at the end of the enemy’s marching column” (Kelsey). The Boii or Tulingi, with about 15,000 men, had been in the front of the Helvetian line of march, and were consequently in the rear when they faced round to attack Caesar (H-T). They had probably been separated from the Helvetii by a wagon train, which they had been obliged to pass on the road; this accounts for their coming up so late in the battle (Walker).

    novissimīs praesidiō erant: the same construction as Gallīs … impedīmentō above (A-G): “guarded the rear,” literally, “were for a defence to the rear” (or “the newest / last”) (Harkness). Novissimīs = novissimō agminī (Hodges).

    ex itinere nostrōs latere apertō aggressī: ex itinere, “on their way,” “immediately after the march” (Walpole), “on the march,” i.e., they went straight from their march into the battle, without a halt (Walker): “having attacked our men on their exposed flank,” i.e., on their right flank, which, on account of its not being covered by the shields of the soldiers, was more open to attack (Anthon). Caesar was guilty of a great error in pursuing the Helvetii on their retreat, without observing the Boii and Tulingi, who acted as a body of reserve, and who attacked him on his flank as he passed by on the march (ex itinere), and then began to surround him in the rear. He should have ordered the two legions posted on the top of the hill to follow immediately after him, and in this way might have opposed the attack of the Boii (Anthon).

    circumvenīre: sc. coepērunt (A-G): “they began to outflank” (M-T); “they began to move around them” (Kelsey); they came up in the rear, trying to work their way around to the more advantageous position (Walker).

    cōnspicātī: “perceiving” (Kelsey).

    redintegrāre: “to renew,” again assuming the offensive (Kelsey).

    conversa signa bipertītō intulērunt: “the Romans, having faced about, advanced against the enemy in two divisions” (Anthon); “wheeling around, they charged in two directions” (M-T). The rear rank, consisting of the third line, faced about and advanced against the Boii and Tulingi, who were coming up in the rear; while the first and second lines continued facing towards, and made headway against the Helvetii, who were now coming down again from the mountain to which they had retreated (Anthon). The divisions stood not back to back, but at an angle, facing outward; the two front lines facing forward, while the third met the flank attack of the new-comers (venientēs), i.e., the Boii and Tulingi. The phrase conversa signa refers only to the movement of the third line, while intulērunt denotes the action of the entire army. The exact position of this battle is uncertain. It is usually placed at a point between Chides and Luzy, near the river Alène, and about ten miles south of Mont Beuvray (A-G).

    aciēs: in apposition with Rōmānī (Harkness).

    victīs ac summōtīs: “the conquered and dislodged” (L-E); “those who had been beaten and driven back” (Kelsey), referring to the Helvetii, and venientēs to the Boii and the Tulingi (Harkness).

    tertia: sc. aciēs (Harkness).

    ut venientēs sustinēret: “to bear the brunt of the new attack” (M-T); “to withstand those who were advancing,” i.e., the Boii and Tulingi. The present participle is here equivalent to a relative clause (L-E).

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

    removeō, -movēre, -mōvī, -mōtus: move back; remove, take away, dismiss.

    aequō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus: make level, make equal, equalize.

    cohortor, -ārī, -ātus: incite, encourage; address.

    pīlum, -ī, n.: javelin; mūrāle pīlum, wall-javelin, a heavy javelin to be hurled from fortifications.

    facile: adv., easily, without difficulty; safely; unquestionably.

    phalanx, -angis, f.: phalanx, a compact body of troops in battle array.

    perfringō, -fringere, -frēgī, -frāctus: break through, force a way through.

    disiciō, -icere, -iēcī, -iectus: drive apart; disperse, scatter.

    dēstringō, -stringere, -strīnxī, -strictus: unsheathe.

    impedīmentum, -ī n.: obstruction, hindrance; pl., luggage, baggage, baggage train, pack-animals.

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

    scūtum, -ī, n.: shield.

    pīlum, -ī, n.: javelin; mūrāle pīlum, wall-javelin, a heavy javelin to be hurled from fortifications.

    trānsfīgō, -fīgere, -fīxī, -fīxus: pierce through, drive through, transfix.

    conligō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus: tie together, fasten together.

    īnflectō, -flectere, -flexī, -flexus: bend down, bend.

    ēvellō, -vellere, -vellī, -vulsus: pull out.

    sinistra –ae f. (sc. manus): the left hand

    impediō, -īre, -īvī, -ītus: fetter; entangle, obstruct, hinder.

    commodus, -a, -um: complete; suitable, convenient, favorable, easy; serviceable, useful; (adv.) commodē, well, suitably, conveniently; effectively, profitably, easily.

    iactō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus: throw with violence, hurl; toss about, shake; discuss.

    bracchium, -ī, n.: forearm, arm.

    praeoptō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus: choose rather, prefer.

    scūtum, -ī, n.: shield.

    ēmittō, -mittere, -mīsī, -missus: send out, send forth; throw; let go, throw away.

    dēfetīscor, -fetīscī, -fessus: become very weary, be exhausted.

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

    subsum, -esse: be near, be at hand.

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

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

    succēdō, -cēdere, -cessī, -cessus: march up; approach; come next; succeed, take the place of, relieve; be successful, prosper.

    nostri -orum m. pl.: our men

    Bōiī, Bōiōrum, m.: pl., the Boii, a Gallic tribe, which was finally settled in the territory of the Aedui, perhaps in the angle between the Elaver (Allier) and the Liger (Loire).

    Tulingī, -ōrum, m.: pl., the Tulingi, a small tribe, living perhaps across the Rhine from the Helvetii.

    quīndecim (xv) indecl. adj.: fifteen.

    apertus, -a, -um: open, uncovered, unprotected, exposed, bare; unimpeded; apertum latus, exposed flank, usually the right, which was unprotected by the shields.

    adgredior, -gredī, -gressus: move towards, approach; attack; try.

    circumveniō, -venīre, -vēnī, -ventus: come around, surround, beset; circumvent, deceive.

    cōnspicor, -ārī, -ātus: get sight of, see, notice.

    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.

    īnstō, -stāre, -stitī, -stātūrus: push on, press on; approach, impend, be near.

    redintegrō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus: restore, renew, recruit; begin again.

    bipartītō: adv., in two divisions.

    submoveō, -movēre, -mōvī, -mōtus: drive off, drive back.

    resistō, -sistere, -stitī: stay behind; halt, stop; make a stand, withstand, resist, oppose; resistitur, resistance is offered; resistēns, -entis, (adj.) enduring, firm, resolute.

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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.