Chapter 1.23

Postrīdiē eius diēī, quod omnīnō bīduum supererat, cum exercituī frūmentum mētīrī oportēret, et quod ā Bibracte, oppidō Aeduōrum longē maximō et cōpiōsissimō, nōn amplius mīlibus passuum XVIII aberat, reī frūmentāriae prōspiciendum exīstimāvit; iter ab Helvētiīs āvertit ac Bibracte īre contendit. Ea rēs per fugitīvōs L. Aemilī, decuriōnis equitum Gallōrum, hostibus nūntiātur. Helvētiī, seu quod timōre perterritōs Rōmānōs discēdere ā sē exīstimārent, eō magis quod prīdiē superiōribus locīs occupātīs proelium nōn commīsissent, sīve eō quod rē frūmentāriā interclūdī posse cōnfīderent, commūtātō cōnsiliō atque itinere conversō nostrōs ā novissimō agmine īnsequī ac lacessere coepērunt.

Caesar turns to go to Bibracte for supplies; the Helvetians attack his marching column on the rear.

postrīdiē eius diēī: pleonastic equivalent of posterō diē: “the next day” (Spencer), literally, “on the morrow (next day) of that day” (Hodges). Postrīdiē, an old locative or ablative like cotīdiē (M-T) here has its original force as a noun and governs the genitive (diēī) (L-E).

omnīnō: “in all,” i.e., “only” (A-G).

bīduum supererat, cum: “two days remained to the time when” (Walpole); “ … since but two days remained until the time when” (Anthon). Cum = ut tum, “such that then … ” (M-T).

exercituī frūmentum mētīrī oportēret: “he would have to distribute grain to the army” (Walker). The Roman soldiers received a stated allowance of grain, usually wheat or barley, from which they prepared their bread (Harkness). Cum here takes the subjunctive because it defines the nature of the two days’ interval (M-T).

ā Bibracte: with names of towns and small islands ab is often used to denote “from the vicinity of” (AG 428). Bibracte is now identified as Mont Beuvray, a considerable hill twelve miles west of Autun (Walker); the place afterwards became a Roman colony (Augustodunum) and contains numerous Roman remains (A-G) (Walker). It was the “holy city” of the Druids, and the capital of the Aedui (L-E). Most neuter names of towns ending in –e, though i-stems, have the ablative ending in –e (Hodges).

īre: infinitive expressing purpose (AG 460).

mīlibus: ablative of comparison with amplius (AG 406) (Walker). Mīlibus passuum xviii is the usual order of numerals with mīlia in Caesar (L-E).

reī frūmentāriae prōspiciendum: sc. sibi esse: “that he ought to make provision for a supply of corn” (Hodges); “that he must provide for … ,” i.e., make arrangements to procure it from the Aedui, on whom he relied mainly for his supplies of grain  (Anthon); “that he must look out for...” Evidently his vigorous talk to Dumnorix and the rest of the chiefs, two days before, had as yet produced no results (Walker). Prōspiciendum is an impersonal gerund in a passive periphrastic construction expressing necessity (AG 500). Reī frūmentāriae is dative with the compound verb prōspiciendum (AG 370).

itaque iter ab Helvētiīs āvertit ac Bibracte īre contendit: The verbs āvertit and contendit, taken together, show what Caesar did, as the result of the opinion expressed in prōspiciendum existimāvit. This connection may be shown by supplying “and accordingly.” Thus: “He thought that he ought …  and accordingly turned his march aside from the Helvetians” (Harkness). Caesar was south and a little east of Bibracte. The Helvetii were marching northwest, and the more northerly route taken by Caesar was almost parallel, for some distance, with the route of the Helvetii. This explains the fact that the Helvetii were able to overtake Caesar’s army (Walker). Bibracte is accusative of place to which without a preposition, as is generally the case for names of cities, towns, and small islands (AG 427).

fugitīvōs: “deserters,” i.e., from the Gallic cavalry in Caesar’s service (Harkness); “fugitives,” i.e., those who had deserted probably to return home. Perfugae and transfugae are deserters who go to serve in the enemy’s ranks (Spencer).

L. Aemiliī decuriōnis equitum Gallōrum: “Lucius Aemilius, a captain of the Gallic cavalry.” The decuriō was the commander of a decuria, a small force of cavalry, originally ten in number. The cavalry was divided into companies or ālae, the ālae into turmae, and these again into decuriae (Harkness). Lucius Aemilius was a Roman officer in charge of a squad of Gallic horsemen (Spencer), the senior of the three in his turma (Moberly).

discēdere ā sē: “were departing from them,” i.e., were turning off and changing their route. Indirect discourse with exīstimārent, the infinitive discēdere translated as an imperfect tense (Anthon). refers to the subject, the Helvetians.

exīstimārent, cōnfīderent: should be indicative, but are attracted by the surrounding indirect statement to the subjunctive (Walpole). By a kind of carelessness of expression the verb of saying or thinking (on which would depend the indirect discourse) is often put in the subjunctive for the things said or thought” (Roby). The subjunctive here is used idiomatically because Caesar was not sure of the real reason (A-G): “either because they thought … , or because (literally “for this reason, because”) they trusted … ” (Harkness).

eō magis quod: “all the more because” (Walpole), explained by the following quod-clause which gives a special reason for the opinion of the Helvetians (Harkness). is an ablative of cause (AG 404) (Walker).

prīdiē: “on the day before” (Spencer).

superiōribus locīs occupātīs: “having seized a higher position,” referring to the exploit of Labienus with two legions (see Chapter 21) (Spencer), but with concessive force: although the Romans had gained an advantageous position on higher ground, still they did not attack the Helvetii (A-G).

quod … proelium nōn commīsissent: the Helvetii did not understand the reason for the failure of Caesar and Labienus to attack them on the previous day (Walker). This omission of the Romans to come to an engagement, though of actual occurrence, is here represented as existing in the thoughts of the Helvetians, and as constituting the reason which led them to believe that the present movement of the Romans was prompted by their fears (Spencer). Subjunctive because a subordinate clause in indirect discourse (AG 583).

sīve eō: “or for this reason” (Walker); is ablative of cause (AG 404), not different in sense from eō magis above (A-G).

rē frūmentāriā: ablative of separation (AG 400) with interclūdī (A-G).

interclūdī posse: sc. Rōmānōs (Walpole): “that (the Romans) could be cut off,” i.e., by being prevented from reaching Bibracte (Walker), i.e., they flattered themselves with the hope of being able to accomplish this (Anthon). Indirect discourse dependent on cōnfīderent.

cōnfīderent: “they felt sure” (A-G); “they trusted,” “they were confident” (Anthon).

commūtātō cōnsiliō: “having changed their plan” (Kelsey). If the Helvetii had held to their plan of march, they might have foiled Caesar. Their safety lay in avoiding battle, which they could do as long as they were in advance of him, on account of the rugged nature of the country. Their fatal mistake lay in thinking they were strong enough to throw away this advantage (Walker).

itinere conversō: instead of continuing on their way, by which they might have reached the coast, their vain confidence led them to return and give Caesar the chance that he had been waiting for (A-G).

ā novissimō agmine: sc. nostrō: “on our rear” (Walpole).

postrīdiē: adv., on the next day, the day after.

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

omnīnō: adv., wholly, entirely, utterly; in all; only; at all.

bīduum, -ī n: period of two days, two days.

mētior, mētīrī, mēnsus m.: measure, measure out.

Bibracte, -tis, n.: Bibracte, the chief town of the Aedui, situated on Mont Beuvray.

cōpiōsus, -a, -um: abundantly supplied, rich.

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

duodēvīgintī (xviii): indecl. adj., eighteen.

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

prōspiciō, -spicere, -spexī, spectus: look forward; watch, provide, use foresight.

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.

āvertō, -vertere, -vertī, -versus: turn away, turn aside, avert; alienate.

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

fugitīvus, -a, -um: fugitive; as subst., m., runaway, deserter.

Lūcius -iī m.: Lucius (name) abbreviated "L."

Aemilius, -ī, m.: Aemilius, a Roman nomen; Lucius Aemilius, probably an enfranchised Gaul, decurion of cavalry in Caesar', army.

decuriō, -ōnis m.: decurion, commander of a troop of ten horsemen. See Introd., p. 38.

Gallus, -ī, m.: Gallus, a Roman cognomen; see Trebius.

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

perterreō, -terrēre, -terruī, -territus: frighten thoroughly, fill with terror; perterritus, -a, -um, panic-stricken.

prīdiē: adv., on the day before.

interclūdō, -clūdere, -clūsī, -clūsus: shut off, cut off, hinder, prevent.

cōnfīdō, -fīdere, -fīsus: have confidence in, rely upon, trust, believe; hope.

commūtō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus: change wholly, alter; exchange, replace.

nostri -orum m.: pl. our men

īnsequor, -sequī, -secūtus: follow on, follow up, follow closely, pursue, press upon.

lacessō, lacessere, lacessīvī, lacessītus: provoke; challenge, harass, attack.

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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. https://dcc.dickinson.edu/index.php/caesar/book-1/chapter-1-23