A NOTE ON CAESAR AS STYLIST

It is easy to think of Caesar's Commentaries as elementary school texts because they have been used that way for centuries. Since Colonial times, they have been used in schools and academies in this country not only as an introduction to Latin, but as a conscious propagandistic preparation for the subjugation and eradication of the Native American population. On the one hand this kind of reading would be dull and boring for young minds in school, on the other hand this use of the Latin for a modern purpose is evil and as repellent as the children's' rhymes about the Ten Little Indians disappearing one by one. Caught between the twin accusations of Boring and Evil, Caesar's brilliant Commentaries have not fared well in the last centuries.

What many do not realize is that Caesar was the major proponent of a Purist style of writing Latin, which was called the Attic or "clean style", as against the flowery and convoluted oratorical style which Cicero loved. Cicero's remark on Caesar's writing in the Commentarii is telling: Nudi sunt, recti et venusti "Spare, direct and engaging". After Caesar nobody wrote clean Latin again, although Fronto tried a hand at it centuries later in vain. But the feeling for simplicity was gone, just as the feeling for the ways of the old Republic was gone.

For anyone who can read Latin with some fluency, Caesar is fine reading, quick and to the point, with an eye into not only the Roman military, but into the genuine Roman way of thinking. Every other author in Latin wrote for a specific audience in the upper classes, nothing for the common reader. Caesar wrote for the wide range of a Roman reading public, which is why later Roman critics praised and valued him so greatly.

If you wanted to base or tone your own writing style on any ancient models, whom would you choose in this new Millennium? It wouldn't be the Cicero who furbished out our Congressional debatery of the mid l9th century, with the last traces extant in Southern filibustering. It might be Tacitus if you wanted to write hard and bitter, but that would chafe soon enough I guess. We have had our Petronius followers to the point of surfeit, maybe enough of that by now. Whom would it be?

Caesar is neglected by serious Classical scholars in large part, perhaps by association with the high school curriculum. In one well furnished college library I recently found on the shelves about eight inches of Caesar, as against three and a half yard of materials on Cicero. To be sure Cicero's works in ten Teubner volumes are more extensive, and his political role better documented, but the sheer disproportion of interest seems somehow wrong.

School textbooks on Caesar often omit the invaluable anthropological information which Book V contains, which is a further reason for making it available on the web at this point. The parallel information on the Germans is of equal importance from a century and half later, and although neither document would satisfy the requirements of a modern social scientist, these documents are unique and the only things we have in this area

The Customs of the Gauls and Germans

Book V, Sect 11 ff.

Quoniam ad hunc locum perventum est, non alienum esse videtur de Galliae Germaniaeque moribus et, quo differant hae nationes inter sese, proponere. In Gallia non solum in omnibus civitatibus atque in omnibus pagis partibusque, sed paene etiam in singulis domibus factiones sunt, earumque factionum principes sunt, qui summnm auctoritatem eorum indicio habere existimantur, quornm ad arbitrium iudiciumque summa omnium rerum consiliorumque redeat. Idque eius rei causa autiquitus instihltnm videtur, ne quis ex plebe contra potentiorem auxilii egeret; suos enim quisque opprimi et circumveniri non patitur neque, aliter si faciat, ullam inter illos habet auctoritatem. Haec eadem ratio est in snmma totius Galliae; namque omnes civitates in partes divisae snnt duas.

At this point in the history of the Campaigns, Caesar takes time to describe in rough outline the social and political history of the Province, rely on the contemporary sources of information about the Frontier. Some of this is clearly unreliably reported, on the other hand it is the earliest account of the ethnic population of Gaul and the edge of Germany, and the only bit of ethnology we have from this time. According to Caesar Gaul is divided into two major parties, each comprised of canton representation reaching down to protection of the individual. This may be in part a recollection of what Republican Rome was once, before the civil unrest of the Sullan period.



Cum Caesar in Galliam venit, alterius factionis principes erant Haedui, nlterius Sequani. Hi cum per se minus valerent, quod summa auctoritas antiquitus erat in Haeduis magnaeque eorum erant clientelae, Germanos atque Ariovistum sibi adiunxerant eosque ad se magnis iacturis pollicitationibusque perduxerant. Proeliis vero compluribus factis secundis atque omni nobilitate Haeduorum interfecta tantum potentia antecesserant, ut magnam partem clientium ab Haeduis ad se traducerent obsidesque ab iis principum filios acciperent et publice iurare cogerent nihil se contra Sequanos consilii inituros et partem finitimi agri per vim occupatam possiderellt Galliaeque totius principatum obtinerent. Qua necessitate adductus Divitiacus auxilii petendi causa Romam ad senatum profectus infecta re redierat.

The politics of Gaul when Caesar arrived, the division of power between Sequani and Haedui, and the rearrangements, with the Remi taking a major role.



Adventu Caesaris facta eommutatione rerum, obsidibus Haeduis redditis, veteribus clientelis restitutis, novis per Caesarcm comparatis, quod hi, qui se ad eorum amicitiam adgregaverant, meliore condicione atque aequiore imperio se uti videbant, reliquis rebus eorum gratia dignitateque amplificata, Sequani principatum dimiserant. In eorum locum Remi successerant; quos quod adaequare apud Caesarem gratia intellegebatur, ii, qui propter veteres iuimicitias nullo modo cum Haeduis colliungi poterant, se Remis in clientelam dicahant. Hos illi diligenter tuebantur; ita et novam et repente collectam auctoritatem teneballt. Eo tum statu res erat, ut longe principes haberentur Haedui, secundum locum dignitatis Remi obtinerent.

When Caesar arrived, certain rearrangements of leadership took place. Since this occurred right in Caesar's time, this is probably a good picture of tribal rivalry and politics in Gaul.



In omni Gallia eorum hominum, qui aliquo sunt numero atque honore, genera sunt duo. Nam plebes paene servorum habetur loco, quae nihil audet per se, nulli adhibetur concilio. Plerique, cum aere alieno aut magnitudine tributorum aut iniuria potentiorum premuntur, sese in servitutem dicant nobilibus, quibus in hos eadem omnia sunt iura, quae dominis in servos. Sed de his duobus generibus alterum est druidum, aIterum equitum. Illi rebus divinis intersunt, sacrificia publica ac privata procurant, religiones interpretantur; ad eos magnus adulescentium numerus disciplinae causa concurrit, magnoque hi sunt apud eos honore. Nam fere de omnibus controversiis publicis privatisque constituunt, et si quod est admissum facinus, si caedes facta, si de hereditate, de finibus controversia est, idem decernunt, praemia poenasque constituunt; si qui aut privatus aut populus eorum decreto non stetit, sacrificiis interdicunt. Haec poena apud eos est gravissima.

The two major powers are the Druids and the Nobles (equiites) who rule over a slavelike populace which has no power or voice whatsoever. The Druids are in charge of religious rites, and also have a large following of young men who come to them for instruction.



Quibus est interdictum, hi numero impiorum ac sceleratorum habentur, his omnes decedunt, aditum eorum sermonemque defugiunt, ne quid ex contagione incommodi accipiant, neque his petentibus ius redditur neque honos ullus communicatur. His autem omnibus druidibus praeest unus, qui summam inter eos habet auctoritatem. Hoc mortuo aut, si qui ex reliquis excellit dignitate, succedit aut, si sunt plures pares, suffragio druidum deligitur, nonnumquam etiam armis de principatu contendunt. Hi certo anni tempore in finibus Carnutum, quae regio totius Galliae media habctur, considunt in loco consecrato. Huc omnes undique, qui controversias habent, conveniunt eorumque decretis iudiciisque parent. Disciplina in Britannia reperta atque inde in Galliam translata esse existimatur, et nunc, qui diligentius eam rem cognoscere volunt, plerumque illo discendi causa proficiscuntur.

The power of the Druids is great, although they refrain from military concerns. Their source of rite and riotual is said to come from Britain, which was the last move of the huge Celtic invasion which swept over Europe in the second millenium B.C.



Druides a bello abesse consuerunt neque tributa una cum reliquis pendunt; militiae vacationem omniumque rerum habent immunitatem.Tantis excitati praemiis et sua sponte multi in disciplinam conveniunt et a parentibus propinquisque mittuntur. Magnum ibi numerum versuum ediscere dicuntur. Itaque annos nonnulli vicenos in disciplina permanent. Neque fas esse existimant ea litteris mandare, cum in reliquis fere rebus, publicis privatisque rationibus, Graecis litteris utantur. Id mihi duabus de causis instituisse videntur, quod neque in vulgum disciplinam efferri velint neque eos, qui discunt, litteris confisos minus memoriae studere, quod fere plerisque accidit, ut praesidio litterarum diligentiam in perdiscendo ac memoriam remittant. In primis hoc volunt persuadere, non interire animas, sed ab aliis post mortem transire ad alios, atque hoc maxime ad virtutem excitari putant metu mortis neglecto. Multa praeterea de sideribus atque eorum motu, de mundi ac terrarum magnitudine, de rerum natura, de deorum immortalium vi ac potestate disputant et iuventuti tradunt.

The cult and role of the Druides as religious leaders, guardians or an ancient oral tradition, their views on death and immortality, as well as a general view of the cosmos.



Alterum genus est equitum. Hi, cum est usus atque aliquod bellum incidit, quod ante Caesaris adventum fere quotannis accidere solebat, uti aut ipsi iniurias inferrent aut inlatas propulsarent, omnes in bello versantur, atque eorum ut quisque est genere copiisque amplissimus, ita plurimos circum se ambactos clientesque habet. Hanc unalll gratiam potentiamqlle noverunt.

The other party is that of the Nobles (Knights or equites) who are continuially involved in war, supported by "ambacti" or clients of a lower social class, bound to them by an involable pledge of honor.



Natio est omnis Gnllornm admodum dedita religionibus, atque ob eam causam, qui sunt adfecti gravioribus morbis quique in proeliis periculisque versantnr, aut pro victimis homines immolant nnt se immolaturos vovent administlisque ad ea sacrificia druidibus utuntur, quod, pro vita hominis nisi hominis vita reddatur, non posse deorum immortalium numen placari arbitrantur, publiceque eiusdem generis habent instituta sacrificia. Alii immani magnitudine simulacra habent, quorum contexta viminibus membra vivis hominibus complent; quibus succensis circumventi flamma exanimantur homines. Supplicia eorum, qui in furto aut latrocinio aut alia qua noxia sint comprehensi, gratiora dis immortalibus esse arbitrantur; sed cum eius generis copia deficit, etiam ad innocentium supplic;a descendunt.

Rites and ritual of the Gauls, including human sacrifice of criminals and perhaps others at times, by fire.



Deum maxime Mercurium coluut; huius sunt plurima simulacra, hunc omnium inventorem artium ferunt, hunc viarum atque itinerum ducem, hunc ad quaestus pecuniae mercaturasque habere vim maEimam arbitrantur; post hunc Apollinem et Martem et Iovem et Minervam. De his eandem fere quam reliquae gentes, habent opinionem: Apollinem morbos depellere, Minervam operum atque artificiorum initia tradere Iovem imperium caelestium tenere, Martem bella regere Huic, cum proeho dimicare constituerunt, ea, quae bello ceperint, plerumque devovent; cum superaverunt, animalia capta immolant, reliquas res in unum locum conferunt. Multis in civitatibus harum rerum exstructos tumulos locis consecratis conspicari licet; neque saepe accidit, ut neglecta quispiam religione aut capta apud se occultare aut posita tollere auderet, gravissimumque ei rei supplicium cum cruciaru constitutum est.

Their gods, certainly fashioned after the Roman deities by a curious Roman preconception that all primitive peoples really believed in the same gods as the Romans, but they were called by local names. This universalism in religion may have been a part of the pre-Imperial tolerance of local differences, combining in Empire. Or it may have been a gross error based on insufficient evidence filled in by the Roman's view of what should be.



Galli se omnes ab Dite patre prognatos praedicant idque ab druidibus proditum dicunt. Ob eam causam spatia omnis temporis non numero dierum. sed noctium finimlt; dies natales et mensium et annorum initia sic observant, ut noctem dies subsequatur. In reliquis vitae institutis hoc fere ab reliquis dixerunt, quod suos liberos, nisi cum adoleverunt, ut munus militiae sustinere possint, palam ad se adire non patiuntur filiumque puerili aetate in publico in conspectu patris adsistere turpe ducunt.

They beleive they come from the God of the Underworld, hence count dates by nights rather than days. Sons must stay aloof from fathers until of military age, perhaps a taboo based on identity violation.



Viri quantas pecunias ab uxoribus dotis I nomine acceperunt, tantas ex suis bonis aestimatione facta cum dotibus communicant. Huius omnis pecu - niae coniunctim ratio habetur fructusque servantur; uter eorum vita superavit, ad eum pars utriusque cum fructibus superiorum temporum pervenit. Viri in usores, sicuti in liberos, vitae necisque habent potestatem; et cum pater familiae inlustriore loco natus decessit, eius propinqui conveniunt et, de morte si res in suspicionem venit, de uxoribus in servilem modum quaestionem habent et, si compertum est, igni atque omnibus tormentis excruciata interficiunt. Funera sunt pro cultu Gallorum magnifica et sumptuosa; omniaque, quae vivis cordi fuisse arbitrantur, in ignem inferunt, etiam animalia, ac paulo supra hanc memo- riam servi et clientes, quos ab iis dilectos esse constabat, iustis funeribus confectis una cremabantur.

Dowry calculations are kept exactly, rules of wives' chastity and punishment, funeral rites which are extensive and involve burning of all good of the dead, including slaves and special clients. This presupposes an afterlife.



Quae civitates commodius suam rem publicam I administrare existimantur, habent legibus sanctum, si quis quid de re publica a finitimis rumore aut fama acceperit uti ad magistratum deferat neve cum quo alio communicet, quod saepe homines temerarios atque imperitos falsis rumoribus terreri et ad facinus impelli et de summis rebus consilium capere cognitum est. Magistratus, quae visa sunt, occultunt, quaeque esse ex usu iudicaverunt, multitudiui produut. De re publica nisi per concilium loqui non conceditur.

There is no freedom of speech and all information from outside must be referred to the magistrates, who completely control opinion and talk. Public matters are discussed only in Council.






A Short Story of the Two Sargents

Book V 44

Erant in ea legione fortissimi viri, centuriones, qui primis ordinibus appropinquarent, Titus Pullo et Lucius Vorenus. Hi perpetuas inter se controversias habebant, quinam anteferretur, omnibusque annis de locis summis simultatibus contendebant. Ex his Pullo, cum acerrime ad munitiones pugnaretur, "Quid dubitas," inquit, " Vorene? aut quem locum tuae probandae virtutis exspectas ? hic dies de nostris controversiis iudicabit. " Haec cum dixisset, procedit extra munitiones quaque pars hostium confertissma est visa irrumpit. Ne Vorenus quidem tum sese vallo continet, sed omnium veritus existi mationem subsequitur.

Mediocri spatio relicto Pullo pilum in hostes immittit atque unum ex multitudine procurrentem traicit; quo percusso et exanimato hunc scutis protegunt, in hostem tela universi coniciunt neque dant regrediendi facultatem. Transfigitur scutum Pulloni et verutum in balteo defigitur. Avertit hic casus vaginam et gladium educere conanti dextram moratur manum, impeditumque hostes circumsistunt. Succurrit inimicus illi Vorenus et laboranti subvenit.

Ad hunc se confestim a Pullone omnis multitudo convertit: illum veruto arbitrantur occisum. Gladio comminus rem gerit Vorenus atque uno interfecto reliquos paulum propellit; dum cupidius instat, in locum deiectus inferiorem concidit. Huic rursus circumvento fert subsidium Pullo, atque ambo incolumes compluribus interfectis summa cum laude sese intra munitiones recipiunt. Sic fortuna in contentione et certamine utrumque versavit, ut alter alteri inimicus auxilio salutique esset, neque diiudicari posset, uter utri virtute anteferendus videretur.









THE GERMANS

As we turn to the Germans, Caesar's knowledge is clearly less exact. They were further away, the Roman contact with them was less deep and less long, and parts of his report verge on the edge of incredulity or even perhaps humor (alces). On the other hand this is useful since we have another source of early Germanic history in Tacitus' Germania, which gives another reading of German customs from a century and a half later perspective. (This is included in another section of these readings.)

Germani multnm ab hac consuetudine differunt. Nam neque druides habent, qui rebus divinis praesint, neque sacrificiis student. Deorum numero eos solos ducunt, quos cernunt et quorum aperte opibus iuvantur, Solem et Vulcanum et Lunam, reliquos ne fama quidem acceperunt. Vita omnis in venationibus atque in studiis rei militaris consistit; a parvis labori ac duritiae student. Qui diutissime impuberes permanserunt, maximam inter suos ferunt laudem: hoc staturam ali, hoc vires nervosque confirmari putant. Intra annum vero vicesimum feminae notitiam habuisse in turpissimis habent rebus. Cuius rei nulla est occultatio, quod et promiscue in fluminibus perluuntur et pellibus aut parvis renonum tegimentis utuntur magna corporis parte nuda.

Again the same equation of German deities with Roman. The Germans spend their lives hunting and fighting, but as a group refrain from sex until mature, and some thereafter as an aid to physical strength.



Agri culturae non student, maiorque pars eorum victus in lacte, caseo, carne consistit. Neque quisquam agli modum certum aut fines habet proprios. sed magistratus ac principes in annos singulos gentibus, cognationibus hominum quique una coierlmt quantum et quo loco visum est agri, attribuunt atquZ˙ anno post alio transire cogunt. Eius rei multas adferunt causas: ne adsidua consuetudine capti studium belli gerelldi agri cultura commutent; ne latos fines parare studeant potentioresque humiliores possessionibus expell nt ne accuratius ad frigora atque aestus vitandos aedificeut; ne qua oriatur pecuniae cupiditas, qua ex re factiones dissensiones nascuntur; ut animi aequitate plebem contineat, cum suas quisque opes cum potentissimis aequari videat.

Unlike the Gauls they have no serious agriculture, and seem to be semi-nomadic which Caesar says is their plan to avoid land ownership and accumulation of money. All seems to be about equal to everyone else.



Civitatibus maxima laus est quam latissime circum se vastatis finibus solitudines habere. Hoc proprium virtutis existimant, expulsos agris finitimos cedere neque quemquam prope se audere consistere; simul hoc se fore tutiores arbitrantur repentinae incursionis timore sublato. Cum bellum civitas aut inlatum defendit aut infert, magistratus, qui ei bello praesint, ut vitae necisque habeaht potestatem, deliguntur. In pace nullus est communis magistratus, sed principes regionum atque pagorum inter suos ius dicunt controversiasque minuunt. Latrocinia nullam habent infamiam, quae extra fines cuiusque civitatis fiunt, atque ea iuventutis exercendae ac desidiae minuendae causa fieri praedicant.

They like care, open land around them perhaps from fear of attack and robbery. Attacks on neighbors are encouraged for training of the youth.



Atque ubi quis ex principibus in concilio dixit se ducem fore, qui sequi velint, profiteantur, consurgunt ii, qui et causam et hominem probant, suumque auxilinm pollicentur atque a multitudiue conlaudantur; qui ex his secuti non sunt, in desertorum ac proditorum numero ducuntur, omniumque his rerum postea fides derogatur. Hospitem violare fas non putant; qui quacumque de causa ad eos venerunt, ab iniuria prohibent, sanctos habent, hisque omnium domus patent victusque communicatur.

They individually pledge themselves to a self-declared leader, and follow him implicitly..... They believe in hospitality rites, share food and housing with a guest.



Ac fuit antea tempus, cum Germanos Galli virtute superarent, ultro bella inferrent, propter hominum multitudinem agrique inopiam trans Rhenum colonias mitterent. Itaque ea, quae fertilissima Germaniae sunt, loca circum Hercyniam silvam, quam Eratostheni et quibusdam Graecis fama notam esse video, quam illi Orcyniam appellant, Volgae Tectosages occupaverunt atque ibi consederunt; quae gens ad hoc tempus his sedibus sese continet summamque habet iustitiae et bellicae laudis opinionem. Nunc, quoniam in eadem inopia, egestate, patientia qua ante, Germani permanent, eodem victu et cultu corporis ante, Gallis autem provinciarum propinquitus et transmarinarum rerum notitia multa ad copiam atque usum largitur, paulatim adsuefacti superali multisque victi proeliis ne se quidem ipsi cum illis virtute comparant.

Some Gaulish tribes formerly invaded Germany and lived on equal terms with the Germans, and in Caesar's time some had settled in the Germans' area successfully. But for most Gauls proximity to Southern Provence weakened their warlike edge, and they do not date confront the Germans at all.



Huius Hercyniae silvae, quae supra demollstrata est, latitudo novem dierum iter expedito patet: non enim aliter finiri potest, neque mensuras itinerum noverunt. Oritur ab Helvetiorum et Nemetum et Rauracorum finibus rectaque fluminis Danuvii regione pertinet ad fines Dacorum et Anartium; hinc se flectit sinistrorsus diversis a flumine regionibus multarumque gentium fines propter magnitudinem attingit; neque quisquam est huius Germaniae, qui se aut adisse ad initium eius silvae dicat, cum dierum iter LX processerit, aut, quo ex loco oriatur, acceperit; multaque in ea genera ferarum nasci constat, quae reliquis in locis visa non sint, ex quibus quae maxime dixerant a ceteris et memoriae prodenda videantul, haec sunt.

Description of the vast extent of the Hercynian Forest, the limit of which nobody knows, perhaps even 60 days journey across, and a home for wild beasts known nowhere else.



Est bos cervi figura, cuius a media fronte inter aures unum cornu existit excelsius magisque derectum his, quae nobis nota sunt, cornibus; ab eius summo sicut palmae ramique late diffunduntur. Eadem est feminae marisque natura, eadem forma magnitudoque cornuum.

The famous description of a reindeer...? In Germany at that time?



Sunt item, quae appellantur alces. Harum est consimilis capris figura et varietas pellium, sed magnitudine paulo antecedunt mutilaeque sunt cornibus et crura sine nodis articulisque habent; neque quietis causa procumbunt neque, si quo adflictae casu conciderunt, erigere sese aut sublevare possunt. His sunt arbores pro cubilibus; ad eas se adplicant atque ita paulum modo reclinatae quietem capiunt. Quarum ex vestigiis cum est animadversum a venatoribus, quo se recipere consuerint, omues eo loco aut ab radicibus subruunt aut accidunt arbores, tantum ut summa species earum stantium relinquatur. Huc cum se consuetudine recliuaverunt, infirlllns urbores pondere adfligunt atque lma ipsae concidunt.

And the incredible Germanic "alces" or elk, and the curious way they are hunted. I won't tell you any more about that since it would spoil the end of a very curious and very tall tale.



Tertium est genus eorum, qui uri appellantur. Hi sunt magnitudine paulo infra elephantos, specie et colore et figura tauri. Magna vis eorum est et magna velocitas; neque homini neque ferae, quam conspexerunt, parcunt.. Hos studiose foveis captos interficiunt: hoc se labore durant adulescentes atque hoc genere venationis exercent, et qui plurimos ex his interfecerunt, relatis in publicum cornibus quae sint testimonio, magnam ferunt laudem. Sed adsuescere ad homines et mansuefieri ne parvuli quidem excepti possunt. Amplitudo cornuum et figura et species multum ab nostrorum boum cornibus differt. Haec studiose conqnisita ab labris argento eircumcludunt atque in amplissimis epulis pro poculis utuntur.

These have been called Aurochs or Box Primigenius, but their identity is not clear. They sound like European bison, the local represents of American buffalo, but the size is wrong, or wrongly reported. Since he mentions the horns being used for drinking cups silver rimmed, I would expect some samples of this to appear in collections from an early date, or if none found, perhaps default evidence against what Caesar says.



William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College
www.middlebury.edu/~harris