Chapter 1.39

Dum paucōs diēs ad Vesontiōnem reī frūmentāriae commeātūsque causā morātur, ex percontātiōne nostrōrum vōcibusque Gallōrum ac mercātōrum, quī ingentī magnitūdine corporum Germānōs, incrēdibilī virtūte atque exercitātiōne in armīs esse praedicābant (saepe numerō sēsē cum hīs congressōs nē vultum quidem atque aciem oculōrum dīcēbant ferre potuisse), tantus subitō timor omnem exercitum occupāvit ut nōn mediocriter omnium mentēs animōsque perturbāret. Hic prīmum ortus est ā tribūnīs mīlitum, praefectīs, reliquīsque quī ex urbe amīcitiae causā Caesarem secūtī nōn magnum in rē mīlitārī ūsum habēbant: quōrum alius aliā causā inlātā, quam sibi ad proficīscendum necessāriam esse dīceret, petēbat ut eius voluntāte discēdere licēret; nōnnūllī pudōre adductī, ut timōris suspīciōnem vītārent, remanēbant. Hī neque vultum fingere neque interdum lacrimās tenēre poterant: abditī in tabernāculīs aut suum fātum querēbantur aut cum familiāribus suīs commūne perīculum miserābantur. Vulgō tōtīs castrīs testāmenta obsignābantur. Hōrum vōcibus ac timōre paulātim etiam eī quī magnum in castrīs ūsum habēbant, mīlitēs centuriōnēsque quīque equitātuī praeerant, perturbābantur. Quī sē ex hīs minus timidōs exīstimārī volēbant, nōn sē hostem verērī, sed angustiās itineris et magnitūdinem silvārum quae intercēderent inter ipsōs atque Ariovistum, aut rem frūmentāriam, ut satis commodē supportārī posset, timēre dīcēbant. Nōn nūllī etiam Caesarī nūntiārant, cum castra movērī ac signa ferrī iussisset, nōn fore dictō audientēs mīlitēs neque propter timōrem signa lātūrōs.

    Reports reach the Roman soldiers concerning the huge stature and remarkable skill of the Germans. The army is in a state of panic.

    dum … morātur: “while he was delaying”; temporal dum-clauses (“while”) take the present indicative (AG 556) to express an action that takes place at the same time as the main verb; since the main verb of this sentence is past (occupāvit), the verb in the dum-clause is also translated in the past.

    ad Vesontiōnem: “in the vicinity of / near Vesontio” (L-E) (AG 428.d). Only a garrison (praesidium) was stationed at the citadel; the rest of the army were encamped “near” the town (Kelsey).

    reī frūmentāriae commeātūsque causā: “in order to secure grain and [other] supplies” (Kelsey). Causā is accompanied by genitive (AG 359.b). Commeātus pertains to military stores, generally corn, fodder, etc. (M-T). Observe how frequently Caesar refers to the procuring of supplies. His care for the physical well-being of his men was constant and had much to do with his success. He kept them in the very best condition. In the hand-to-hand conflicts of ancient warfare this was an essential element in the success of the undersized Italians (L-E). Caesar had no doubt arranged for supplies along his intended line of march, but he had suddenly changed the direction of his march, and therefore failed to meet his convoys. Consequently he now had to make new arrangements (Walker).

    ex percontātiōne nostrōrum vōcibusque Gallōrum ac mercātōrum, quī … praedicābant: “from the inquiries of our men, and the statements (“talk” (M-T), “random conversation” (Moberly), “replies” (Walker)) of the Gauls and traders, who assured them.” Praedīcābant, “were declaring” (Kelsey), here implies a positive assertion, made in order to impress another with a full belief of what one says (Anthon). Ex percontātiōne, “in consequence of the questioning” (Kelsey).

    Gallōrum: these, it would seem, volunteered reports. The whole indicates a great deal of talk on the subject, to which Caesar attributes the panic (A-G).

    mercātōrum: many traders accompanied the army, to trade with friendly natives as well as to purchase loot from the soldiers and supply them with extras not provided in the army rations (Kelsey).

    ingentī magnitūdine: ablative of quality / description (AG 415), used predicately (Hodges): “of huge size” (Kelsey). Roman writers frequently speak of the huge size of the barbarians of the north as compared with themselves (A-G). Caesar elsewhere (see Book 4, Chapter 1) speaks of the huge size of the German who, by contrast in stature, seemed larger to the Romans than they would have seemed to us (Kelsey).

    incrēdibilī virtūte: the ablative is used to state details of character, and therefore where, as in this place, many qualities are enumerated. On the other hand, the genitive of quality expresses a leading quality or summary of character (Moberly).

    exercitātiōne: “practiced skill” (Kelsey).

    saepe numerō: like in hic locī, tum temporis, ubi gentium. In all these cases the Latin language adds to the adverb the general idea of space, time, number, etc., under which it comes. So in English we have “oftentimes,” “manifold,” etc. (Moberly).

    sēsē: = Gallōs only, not the mercātōrēs, because congressōs refers to hostile encounters (L-E).

    cum hīs congressōs: sc. armīs or bellō (Spencer): “having met them [in battle]” (A-G), i.e., the Germans (Kelsey).

    vultum … atque aciem oculōrum: “their look (“the sight of their faces” (Kelsey)) and the fierce expression of their eyes” (Anthon); “ … the fierce glare … ” (Hodges); “ … the flash of the eyes” (L-E); “ … the keen glance of their eyes” (M-T).

    ferre: “to endure” (Kelsey).                                                                      

    tantus timor: “such a great panic” used of a groundless, cowardly fear (Kelsey).

    utperturbāret: “so that it made all unusually anxious and dispirited” (L-E); subjunctive in a result clause (AG 537) (Harkness), cued by tantus.

    nōn mediocriter: “in no slight degree” (H-T). These words illustrate the rhetorical figure called litotes (a mode of expressing something by denying the contrary (Spencer)) (AG 326 c) (Hodges).

    mentēs animōsque: “minds and spirits” (Hodges); “reason and courage” (M-T). The Germans were less familiar, therefore more terrible, than the Gauls (Hodges).

    hic: sc. timor (A-G).

    ortus est: “started with” (Kelsey).

    tribūnīs mīlitum: “the military tribunes” (Kelsey). These were officers, appointed by the general, in the Roman army who commanded a part of the legion, generally a thousand men (Anthon). The number of military tribunes in a legion was originally four; afterwards the number was increased to six. Their duties were to keep order in the camp, superintend military exercises, inspect outposts and sentinels, procure provisions, etc. (Spencer). They were usually young nobles, a kind of amateur soldiers, who accompanied a general in order to gain experience (Walpole).

    praefectīs: “the prefects.” There were various kinds of praefectī in the Roman army. Those meant here, however, are the prefects of the auxiliary forces of the allies (Anthon); the prefects held the same position among the auxiliaries as the tribunes did among the legionary soldiers (Harkness). Not the “cavalry prefects,” but “subsidiary officials” in various positions of slight responsibility, chiefly, we may assume, in connection with the light-armed troops (Kelsey).

    reliquīs: young men who accompanied Caesar in order to gain some military experience under an able general, or to see what life in the field was. They were called contubernālēs (“tent-companions”) or comitēs (“aides” or “attachés) of the general (Hodges). These were often appointed from mere personal or political motives, and were of small use in the service, as it proved here (A-G). In giving them commissions, Caesar was simply paying his political debts (L-E).

    quī ex urbe amīcitiae causā Caesarem secūtī: ex urbe = Rōmā. These were the young nobility to whom Plutarch alludes (Vīta Caesaris, Ch. 19), and who, according to him, had entered into Caesar’s service only in hopes of living luxuriously and making their fortunes (Anthon). Caesar is politic as well as polite in ascribing to personal attachment to himself the presence of these milksops in his army (Kelsey). Probably Caesar was too deep in debt when he began campaigning to be stern in refusing such appointments to his creditors’ friends where, on military grounds, he ought to have done so (Moberly).

    nōn magnum … ūsum habēbant: “they had little experience,” i.e., they were “holiday soldiers” (L-E) who had little taste for real fighting (Walker).

    rē mīlitārī: “warfare” (Kelsey).

    quōrum alius aliā causā inlātā: “one of whom having assigned one excuse, another another [excuse]” (Anthon); “and one of these alleging one reason, another, another [reason]” (L-E); “each one offering a different excuse” (Kelsey); “each bringing forward a separate excuse” (Walpole). Inlātā = in medium prōlātā (Walpole).

    quam sibi ad proficīscendum necessāriam esse dīceret: “which, he said, was a necessary (“indispensable” (Moberly), “urgent” (Walpole)) cause for his departure” (Harkness); “ … made it necessary for him to set out” (Hodges). The verb is singular in Latin on account of alius (A-G). Ad proficīscendum is dependent on causam, not with necessāriam (M-T).

    petēbat ut eius voluntāte discēdere licēret: “begged his (i.e., Caesar’s (Spencer)) permission to leave” (Kelsey); ut­ with subjunctive in a substantive purpose clause (AG 563) dependent on petēbat. As liceō means literally “to be left”, we see that the expression “that it might be left to them by his good-will to leave” is not really so pleonastic as it seems to be (Moberly).

    nōnnūllī: this double negative creates a positive: “some,” literally “not no.”

    pudōre: “by a sense of shame” (Hodges).

    remanēbant: “remained” in camp, after the exodus of the others (Kelsey).

    ut timōris suspīciōnem vītārent: “in order to avoid the suspicion of fear”; a clause of purpose (AG 531) dependent on remanēbant (Hodges).

    vultum fingere: “to compose their faces,” i.e., look brave (H-T); “to command their countenance” (Anthon), so as to conceal their fear (Hodges); “to look unconcerned” (Kelsey); “to assume a cheerful expression” (M-T); “to put on a brave face”; vultum refers to the expression of the face (A-G).

    lacrimās: quite in keeping with the excitable temperament of the Italian (L-E).

    abditī: “shutting themselves up” (Kelsey); “hiding themselves”; middle voice (AG 156a) (Moberly).

    suum fātum querēbantur: “they were bewailing their fate” (Kelsey). Suum is emphatic, contrasted with commūne (Hodges).

    familiāribus: “intimate friends” (Kelsey).

    miserābantur: “were despairingly discussing” (Kelsey).

    vulgō tōtīs castrīs: “as a general matter, throughout the whole camp” (Anthon). Vulgō is an adverb, “generally” (Kelsey), “universally” (Walpole). Tōtīs castrīs (sc. in) is ablative of place where (AG 429.2) (M-T).

    testāmenta obsignābantur: “wills were made” (Anthon), indicating their utter despair (A-G). Soldiers most commonly made their wills by word of mouth, while girding themselves for battle, and such a will was called testāmentum in prōcinctū factum, and had binding force. On the present occasion, however, their wills were formally made in writing, as appears from the literal meaning of obsignābantur (Anthon), referring to the process by which wax tablets (tabulae), on which wills were ordinarily written, were sealed up (Kelsey), the seal being placed on the string which was tied around the closed tabula (M-T), and then deposited with the quaestor (L-E).

    quī … magnum ūsum habēbant … perturbābantur: even the experienced soldiers and officers were affected by vague fears (L-E).

    in castrīs: “in the army” is our corresponding phrase (Kelsey).

    mīlitēs: i.e., the private soldiers (M-T).

    centuriōnēs: “centurions” were soldiers, appointed especially for their bravery (Walker), who commanded, when the legion was full, a hundred (centum) men, as the name itself indicates. There were two in each maniple, and, consequently, six in each cohort, and sixty in each legion (Anthon). According as the strength of the legion varied from about three to six thousand, the numbers under a centurion’s command would vary in proportion from abouot fifty to a hundred (Spencer).

    quīque equitātuī praeerant: quīque = et eī quī (Kelsey): “and those who were in command of the cavalry”; the cavalry prefects (praefectī) and decurions (dēcuriōnēs) are meant here (Kelsey). The lack of a definite word for “officers” in Latin has often been remarked (Stock). Equitātuī is dative with the intransitive compound verb praeerant (AG 370).

    perturbābantur: “were getting frightened”; notice the use of imperfect here (Hodges).

    quī sē ex hīs minus timidōs exīstimārī volēbant: ex hīs = hōrum: “those individuals of this latter class, who wished themselves to be regarded as less timid (“cowardly” (Kelsey)) than the rest of the army”; by hīs are meant those, quī magnum in castrīs ūsum habēbant (Anthon). The antecedent of quī is , to be supplied as subject of dīcēbant (H-T). Minus is a weak form of negative (Stock).

    nōn sē verērī: “that they were not afraid of” (Kelsey); “they were not overawed by the enemy” (Stock). Vereor implies “fear,” with the accessory notion of respect and awe (Harkness).

    angustiās: the gorges in the valley of the Doubs, through which the most direct route led northeast to the region where Ariovistus was (Kelsey), are narrow and very rough (L-E). If Ariovistus had really been marching toward them it would have given opportunity for ambuscades (Walker).

    silvārum: there are still extensive forests on both sides of the upper Doubs (Kelsey).

    intercēderent: “which intervened,” i.e., as they supposed; observe the force of the subjunctive (Harkness), giving the reasons of the officers, not that of the author himself.

    ipsōs: = sē ipsōs, in antithesis to Ariovistum (M-T).

    rem frūmentāriam, ut satis commodē supportārī posset, timēre: = ut rēs frūmentāria …posset: “was afraid that grain might not be furnished (“be brought up the country” (M-T)) with sufficient readiness” (Harkness); “feared [for] the supply of corn, lest it might not be conveniently brought in” (Stock), i.e., at such times and in such quantities as to keep the soldiers in fighting trim (Walpole). Timēre governs angustiās itineris, rem frūmentāriam, etc. (Stock). The conjunction ut, when joined in construction with a verb of fearing, such as timēre, requires in our idiom the addition of a negative, while nē, on the other hand, when similarly construed, has an affirmative force (AG 564). Thus timeō ut faciās means “I am afraid you will not do it,” but timeō nē faciās means “I am afraid you will do it” (Anthon). Rem frūmentāriam is the accusative of anticipation, a conversational rather than literary construction adopted from Greek, where the nominative of the dependent clause becomes an accusative of reference (Moberly): “they feared, in regard to the grain supplies,that they could not be brought in readily” (H-T).

    cum … iussisset: “when he should give the order” (Kelsey); for cum iusseris (future perfect) of direct discourse (A-G). This clause marks the time of fore and lātūrōs, not of renūntiābant (Harkness).

    fore: = futūrōs esse (Walker).

    nūntiābant: some editors give nūntiārant (= nūntiāverant), the pluperfect expressing what had occurred before, and had caused the rebuke (incūsāvit) in the next chapter (M-T).

    castra movērī: “to break camp” (A-G).

    sīgna ferrī: “the standards to be borne onward,” i.e., the troops to march forward (Anthon), following the standards (M-T).

    nōn fore dictō audientēs: “would not be obedient to his orders” (Anthon); “would not obey the command” (Kelsey); “would not be attentive to the word (of command)” (H-T), i.e., mutinous (Moberly). Dictō is dative with audientēs, here with the sense of “obedient” (Hodges). According to Cassius Dio (38.35), Caesar’s soldiers pronounced the war an unjust and unauthorized one, and alleged that it had been merely undertaken by their commander to gratify his own ambitious views. They threatened also to abandon him unless he changed his intention of attacking the Germans (Anthon).

    neque propter timōrem signa lātūrōs: “and would not advance in consequence of their fear” (Anthon). The signiferī (“standard-bearers”) would refuse to advance, so that the order for the army to march would be ineffectual (M-T). Sīgna ferre, i.e., “advance,” is the technical term, as the standards were planted in the ground during a halt (A-G).

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

    frūmentārius, -a, -um : of grain; abounding in grain, fertile; rēs frūmentāria, grain-supply, provisions.

    commeātus, -ūs m.: going to and fro, trip; supplies, provisions.

    percontātiō, -ōnis : f., questioning, investigation.

    nostri -orum m. pl.: our men

    Gallus, -a, -um: a Gaul; pl., the Gauls, generally used as synonymous with Celtae, meaning the inhabitants of the central of Caesar's divisions of Transalpine Gaul (see Bk. I, Chap. I); also used as an adj.

    mercātor, -ōris m.: trader, traveling merchant.

    Germānus, -ī, m. : a German; pl., the Germans; as adj., Germānus, -a, -um, German

    incrēdibilis, -e : marvelous, wonderful, incredible.

    exercitātiō, -ōnis f.: exercise, practice, training; experience, skill.

    praedicō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus : announce, proclaim, assert; report, declare; boast.

    saepenumerō : adv., very often, again and again.

    congredior, -gredī, -gressus : meet; meet in arms, join battle; meet in friendship, make an alliance.

    mediocriter : adv., moderately; nōn mediocriter, not a little.

    perturbō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus : throw into confusion, disturb, alarm

    praefectus, -a, -um: part. of praeficiō; as subst., m., overseer, commander, prefect.

    Caesar, -aris, m.: Caesar, a Roman cognomen: (1) Gaius Julius Caesar, the conqueror of Gaul;(2) Lucius Julius Caesar, a distant relative of (1), and his legate in 52 b.c. He is thought to be the same Lucius Caesar who was consul in 64 b.c.

    mīlitāris, -e : of a soldier; belonging to military service, military; rēs mīlitāris, art of war.

    necessārius, -a, -um : necessary, indispensable, requisite; pressing, urgent; tempus neces-sārium, time of need, critical time; as subst., m., connection, kinsman.

    nōnnūllus –a –um: number of (pl.), some; several

    suspīciō, -ōnis f.: mistrust, distrust, suspicion.

    remaneō, -manēre, -mānsī : stay behind, be left, remain; stay, continue; last, continue to be.

    interdum : adv., sometimes, at times.

    abdō, -dere, -didī, -ditus : put away, hide; sē abdere, take refuge, commonly used with in and the acc.

    tabernāculum, -ī n.: tent.

    familiāris, -e m.: intimate friend, associate

    miseror, -ārī, -ātus : deplore, lament.

    testāmentum, -ī n.: will, 'last will and testament.'

    obsīgnō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus : seal, attest.

    paulātim : adv., little by little, by degrees; a few at a time.

    centuriō, -ōnis m.: commander of a century, captain, centurion. See Introd., p. 33.

    equitātus, -ūs m.: cavalry, body of horsemen.

    praesum, -esse, -fuī : be before, be set over, be in command of.

    timidus, -a, -um : fearful, timid, afraid; cowardly; (adv.) timidē, timidly, hesitatingly.

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

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

    intercēdō, -cēdere, -cessī, -cessus : come between, be between; intervene, pass; occur, be.

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

    supportō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus : bring up, bring forward, convey; supply.

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

    dictum, -ī n.: word, assertion; command; dictō audiēns, obedient to the word, obedient.

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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.