Chapter 1.38

Cum trīduī viam prōcessisset, nūntiātum est eī Ariovistum cum suīs omnibus cōpiīs ad occupandum Vesontiōnem, quod est oppidum maximum Sēquanōrum, contendere trīduīque viam ā suīs fīnibus prōfecisse. Id nē accideret, magnō opere sibi praecavendum Caesar exīstimābat. Namque omnium rērum quae ad bellum ūsuī erant summa erat in eō oppidō facultās; idque nātūrā locī sīc mūniēbātur ut magnam ad dūcendum bellum daret facultātem, proptereā quod flūmen Dūbis ut circinō circumductum paene tōtum oppidum cingit; reliquum spatium, quod est nōn amplius pedum M sescentōrum, quā flūmen intermittit, mōns continet magnā altitūdine, ita ut rādīcēs montis ex utrāque parte rīpae flūminis contingent. Hunc mūrus circumdatus arcem efficit et cum oppidō coniungit. Hūc Caesar magnīs nocturnīs diurnīsque itineribus contendit occupātōque oppidō ibi praesidium collocat.

    Caesar forestalls Ariovistus in occupying Vesontio.

    eī: = Caesarī.

    trīduī viam: “a three-day’s journey”; this would bring him to the vicinity of modern Langres (L-E). Trīduī is genitive of quality / description (AG 345 b); ordinarily the descriptive genitive must be modified by an adjective, but here trīduī = trium diērum. The three days’ march was east from Tonnerre, and brought Caesar to the point where his route turns to the southeast (Walker).

    nūntiātum est: this report that Ariovistus was marching toward Vesontio proved false. Probably it grew out of the fact that Ariovistus had got his army together for the purpose of marching north to help the Suebi (Walker).

    Ariovistum: while Caesar had been marching northeast, toward the Rhine, Ariovistus had been slowly advancing south. Caesar now turned toward the southeast from Langres and moved with all speed toward Vesontio (L-E).

    ad occupandum: gerundive agreeing with Vesontiōnem (A-G), expressing purpose (AG 500): “to seize Vesontio.”

    Vesontiōnem, quod est oppidum: the relative generally agrees with an appositive or predicate noun (here oppidum) in its own clause rather than with an antecedent (here Vesontiōnem) of different gender and number (L-E). Est is indicative because this clause is not part of the quotation (Hodges). Vesontiō, the modern Besançon, on the river Dubis, now called “Doubs” (Spencer) is still a very important military stronghold (Stock); it lies about ninety miles E.N.E. of the former battleground; there are many Roman remains here (A-G).

    ā suīs fīnibus: the country which Ariovistus had taken from the Sequani (Upper Alsace) (A-G). When these tidings were received, Caesar was at Arc-en-Barrois, about forty miles from Vesontio, and supposed Ariovistus to be quite as near that important city as himself. Hence the pressing need of haste (Harkness).

    id nē accideret: “lest this happen,” i.e., the capture of Vesontio (L-E); a purpose clause (AG 531) dependent on praecavendum [esse] (A-G).

    magnopere sibi praecavendum: sc. esse: “that he had to take the greatest precautions.”

    omnium rērum: partitive genitive with summa facultās (AG 346). The generic word rēs is constantly used in Caesar, where in English we should use the specific words, “occurrence,” “movement,” “exploit,” “misfortune,” “undertaking,” “intelligence,” “fact,” “heads of a summary,” “mode of life,” “supplies,” etc., according to the context (Moberly).

    ad bellum ūsuī: “of use in war” (Harkness); ūsuī is dative of purpose (AG 382).

    summa … facultās: facultās = cōpia (Anthon): “a very full supply” (L-E); “a very great abundance” (Moberly).  Facultās is literally “easiness,” hence “power” or “opportunity,” when referred to actions; when referred to means, “abundance”; and in the plural, “wealth” (M-T).

    nātūrā locī sīc mūniēbātur: the imperfect here expresses a continuous state in past time (“was strong”), not a continuous action (“was being fortified”) (M-T): “was so naturally strong by the character of the ground [it occupied]” (Moberly); “ … by its natural position,” literally, “by the nature of the place” (Harkness), i.e., its natural defenses (Hodges).

    ut magnam daret facultātem: “that it furnished admirable opportunities (“abundant means” (Anthon)) (L-E); “as to afford a great facility”; a result clause (AG 537). Facultātem is an awkward repetition of the word (Walpole) after so short an interval, which led one editor to suspect that facultās in the previous part of the sentence was a mere interpolation. It would appear rather to be one among many arguments in favor of the opinion that these commentaries were hastily penned on the spot (Anthon).

    ad dūcendum bellum: “for prolonging the war,” i.e., against Caesar until the Suebi arrived (M-T). Ariovistus made a great mistake in not holding Vesontio as he did other Sequanian towns (L-E); accusative gerundive construction expressing purpose (AG 506).

    ut circinō circumductum: “as if (“as it were” (A-G)) drawn around with a pair of compasses” (Spencer), i.e., as if its circular course had been traced out precisely with a compass (Anthon). Circinō is ablative of means (AG 409). The neck of the loop of the river is occupied by fortresses. The name Dūbis means “black river” (Moberly).

    paene cingit: i.e., the river makes a loop, the two sides of which (according to Caesar), are at one point only 600 feet apart. The neck of the land at this point is very high. The town lies within the loop. A wall encloses both the town and the high neck of land (Walker).

    reliquum spatiummōns continet magnā altitūdine: “a hill of great height fills up (“adjoins” (Stock), “occupies” (Anthon)) the space between.” Observe the unusually rapid succession of different nominatives here, facultās, id, flūmen, mōns, rādīcēs, mūrus. The style here makes us think of a general’s memorandum book (Moberly). Magnā altitūdine is ablative of quality / description (AG 415).

    nōn amplius pedum MDC: sc. spatiō (Harkness): “no more [than a space of] 1,600 feet” (M-T). Amplius does not influence the case (Walpole). Quam is commonly omitted (without changing the construction) after amplius, plūs, and minus, with numbers in expressions of distance, size, age, etc. Pedum depends on spatium (M-T) as a predicate genitive after est (AG 343). The numeral M is an insertion, to make the statement accord with facts: the real distance is about 1600 feet, but in other respects the present site exactly corresponds to Caesar’s words (A-G). Perhaps Caesar means here, in place of the ordinary “foot,” the pace of two and a half feet, which would reconcile the text with the actual measurement (Anthon). The river is now connected with itself by what is called the ‘Tunnel de la Navigation’ which flows under the citadel (Stock).

    quā flūmen intermittit: “where the river leaves a gap [of dry land]” (Spencer). The river continues its circular course until interrupted by the high hill which stood on one side of the town (Harkness). Intermittit is here equivalent to cessat, dēficit, dēsinit, etc. (Spencer).

    ita ut rādīcēs … rīpae flūminis contingant: “so closely that the banks of the river touch the base of the mountain on both sides” (Stock). Rīpae is the subject of contingant, rādīcēs is the direct object (M-T).

    hunc: sc. montem (Spencer), the object of efficit; arcem is a predicate accusative (Walker): “this [mountain] an encompassing wall makes into a fortress” (A-G); “a wall thrown around it makes a citadel of this mountain, and connects it with the town.” Some of the remains of the wall are still to be seen at the present day (Anthon).

    circumdatus: “put around,” i.e., built around. In compounds often means “put” (Hodges).

    hūc magnīs nocturnīs diurnīsque itineribus contendit: “he hastened with forced marches by night and day” (M-T). He turned from his eastward march to the southeast. Caesar very rarely marched at night, but if the report about Ariovistus had been true, Ariovistus would have been much nearer Vesontio than Caesar was, and only the most extraordinary effort could have enabled Caesar to arrive first (Walker).  As it turned out, Caesar’s haste was unnecessary. Ariovistus was considerably farther away than he had supposed. Hearing that Caesar had reached Vesontio, he now paused in his advance, thinking it best to remain where reinforcements could be more easily obtained from across the Rhine and where the open country was adapted to the movements of his large force of cavalry (M-T).

    oppidō: the town must be regarded as having occupied the lower ground towards the bend in the river (A-G).

    ibi: “therein” = preposition with a pronoun (Walpole).

    praesidium conlocat: “he stations a garrison” (M-T).

    trīduum, -ī n.: period of three days, three days.

    nūntiō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus: bring news; announce, report, relate; command.

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

    Vesontiō, -ōnis, m.: Vesontio, the principal town of the Sequani, now Besançon.

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

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

    magnopere: adv., very much, greatly; earnestly, urgently; particularly.

    praecaveō, -cavēre, -cāvī, -cautus: take care before-hand.

    namque: conj., for indeed, for, and in fact.

    facultās, -ātis f.: ability, power; opportunity, chance, occasion, leave; supply, abundance; pl., resources.

    mūniō, -īre, -īvī, -ītus: fortify, strengthen; protect, secure, guard; build, iter mūnīre, construct a road; mūnītus, -a, -um, fortified, protected, safe; (sup.) mūnītissimus, -a, -um, strongly fortified.

    facultās, -ātis f.: ability, power; opportunity, chance, occasion, leave; supply, abundance; pl., resources.

    proptereā: adv., therefore, on that account; proptereā quod, for the reason that, because.

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

    Dubis, -is, m.: the Dubis, a river of Gaul flowing into the Arar (Saône), now the Doubs.

    circinus, -ī, m.: pair of compasses.

    circumdūcō, -dūcere, -dūxī, -ductus: lead around; draw around, trace.

    sescentī, -ae, -a (dc): pl. adj., six hundred.

    intermittō, -mittere, -mīsī, -missus: let go between, leave between; omit, stop, leave, leave off; leave vacant; allow to intervene; neglect; interrupt, separate; intermissō spatiō, at a distance, after an interval.

    altitūdō, -dinis f.: height, altitude; depth; thickness; in altitūdinem, in height (depth).

    rādīx, -īcis, f.: root; lower part, base; pl., foot of a hill or mountain.

    circumdō, -dare, -dedī, -datus: put around; surround, encompass.

    coniungō, -iungere, -iūnxī, -iūnctus: join together, unite; connect, fasten together; sē coniungere, unite; part., closely joined, allied, associated, connected, having relationship.

    nocturnus, -a, -um: of night, nocturnal, night; during the night.

    diurnus, -a, -um: pertaining to the day, by day.

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

    conlocō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus: place, station, establish, put; place permanently, settle; give in marriage.

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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.