The Gallic Wars III

57-56 BC J.-C.

1. On leaving for Italy, Caesar sent Servius Galba with the 12th legion and part of the cavalry among the Nantuates, the Véragres and the Sédunes, whose territory extends from the borders of the Allobroges, Lake Geneva and the Rhône to the big Alps. What determined him there was the desire to open up the route to the Alps to trade, where merchants had until then only circulated at the cost of great danger and by paying heavy tolls. He authorized Galba, if he deemed it necessary, to install the legion in these areas for the winter. The latter, after having fought various successful battles and taken a large number of fortresses, received deputations and hostages from all sides, made peace, and resolved to install two cohorts among the Nantuates and to establish himself. for the winter, with the other cohorts of his legion, in a village of Véragres called Octoduros; this village, located at the bottom of a narrow valley, is enclosed on all sides by very high mountains.As the river cut it in two, Galba allowed the natives to settle for the winter in half of the village, while that the other, which he had evacuated, was given to his cohorts. He fortified it with an entrenchment and a moat.

2. Il y avait fort longtemps qu’il hivernait là, et il venait de donner l’ordre qu’on y fît des provisions de blé, quand soudain ses éclaireurs lui apprirent que la partie du bourg laissée aux Gallic avait été complètement abandonnée pendant la nuit et qu’une immense multitude de Sédunes et de Véragres occupait les montagnes environnantes. Plusieurs raisons avaient provoqué cette décision soudaine des Gaulois de recommencer la guerre et de tomber à l’improviste sur notre légion : d’abord cette légion, et qui n’était pas au complet, car on en avait distrait deux cohortes et un très grand nombre d’isolés qu’on avait envoyés chercher des vivres, leur semblait une poignée d’hommes méprisable ; puis l’avantage de leur position leur faisait croire que, quand ils dévaleraient les pentes de leurs montagnes et lanceraient une grêle de traits, cette attaque serait, dès le premier choc, irrésistible. A ces calculs s’ajoutait le ressentiment de s’être vu arracher leurs enfants à titre d’otages, et la conviction que les Romains cherchaient à occuper les sommets des Alpes, non seulement pour être maîtres des routes, mais pour s’y établir définitivement et annexer ces régions à leur province, qu’elles bordent.

3. At this news, Galba, who had not entirely completed the winter camp and its defenses, and had not yet made a sufficient reserve of wheat and other provisions, because he had believed, the Gauls s 'being submissive and having given him hostages, no act of hostility was to be feared, hastened to assemble a council and gathered the opinions. In this council, in the face of such a great peril, and so unexpected, seeing almost all the heights furnished with a crowd of armed men, unable to hope for help or supplies, since the roads were cut, almost despairing already of their salvation, several expressed the opinion to abandon the baggage and to seek to escape death by making an exit by the same roads which had led them there. However, the feeling of the majority was that it was necessary to reserve this party as an extreme party and, in the meantime, to see what turn things would take and to defend the camp.

4. Shortly after - we had barely had time to carry out the measures decided upon - the enemies, on all sides, at a given signal, rushed down and threw stones and javelins against the entrenchment. Ours, at the beginning, having all their strength, resisted courageously, and, as they dominated the assailant, all their features wore; each time a point of the camp, stripped of defenders, appeared threatened, one hastened to the rescue; but what made them inferior was that, as the struggle continued, the enemies, if they were tired, left the combat and were replaced by fresh troops; ours, because of their small number, could do nothing of the sort; it was impossible not only for the exhausted fighter to withdraw from the action, but for the wounded himself to leave his post to recover.

5. We had already fought relentlessly for over six hours; ours were at the end of their strength, and they also lacked ammunition; the enemy redoubled his blows and, our resistance weakening, he broke through the palisade and filled in the ditches; the situation was extremely serious. It was then that Publius Sextius Baculus, primipile centurion, who had been, as we have seen, covered with wounds during the fight against the Nervians, and with him Caius Volusenus, military tribune, man full of sense and courage, come running to find Galba and represent to him that there is only one hope of salvation to make an exit, to try this supreme chance. He therefore summons the centurions and through them quickly lets the soldiers know that they have to suspend the combat for a few moments, contenting themselves with protecting themselves from the projectiles that would be sent to them, and to rebuild their strength; then, at the signal given, they will burst out of the camp, and await their salvation only from their valor.

6. They carry out the orders received, and, suddenly coming out through all the doors, they surprise the enemy who can neither realize what is happening nor reform. Thus the fight changes face, and those who already flattered themselves to take the camp are enveloped and massacred out of more than thirty thousand men who were known to have gone to the attack, more than a third is killed, the others, frightened. , are put to flight, and they are not even allowed to stop on the heights. Having thus routed and disarmed the enemy forces, our soldiers returned to their camp, sheltered by their entrenchments. After this fight, not wanting to tempt fortune again, considering, moreover, that that was not why he had come to take up his winter quarters and that he was faced with unforeseen circumstances, but above all very worried at the thought of running out of food, Galba set fire to all the houses of the village the next day and resumed the road to the Province; without any enemy stopping or delaying his march, he led his legion without loss to the Nantuates, and thence to the Allobroges, where he wintered.

7. Après ces événements, César avait tout lieu de penser que la Gaul était pacifiée : les Belges avaient été battus, les germans chassés, les Sédunes vaincus dans les Alpes ; il était, dans ces conditions, parti après le commencement de l’hiver pour l’Illyricum, dont il voulait aussi visiter les peuples et connaître le territoire soudain, la guerre éclata en Gaule. La cause en fut la suivante. Le jeune Publius Crassus, avec la 7e légion, avait établi ses quartiers d’hiver chez les Andes : c’était lui qui était le plus près de l’Océan. Le blé manquant dans cette région, il envoya un bon nombre de préfets et de tribuns militaires chez les peuples voisins peur y chercher du blé entre autres, Titus Terrasidius fut envoyé chez les Esuvii, Marcus Trébius Galius chez les Coriosolites, Quintus Vélanius avec Titus Sillius chez les Vénètes.

8. Ce peuple est de beaucoup le plus puissant de toute cette côte maritime : c’est lui qui possède le plus grand nombre de navires, flotte qui fait le trafic avec la Brittany ; il est supérieur aux autres par sa science et sen expérience de la navigation ; enfin, comme la mer est violente et bat librement une côte où il n’y a que quelques ports, dont ils sont les maîtres, presque tous ceux qui naviguent habituellement dans ces eaux sont leurs tributaires. Les premiers, ils retiennent Sillius et Vélanius, pensant se servir d’eux pour recouvrer les otages qu’ils avaient donnés à Crassus.

Their example draws the neighboring peoples - because the decisions of the Gauls are sudden and impulsive and, obeying the same motive, they retain Trebius and Terrasidius; embassies are sent promptly, the chiefs consult together, they swear not to do anything except by mutual agreement and to all run the same chance; they urge the other cities to keep the independence that the ancestors transmitted to them rather than submit to the yoke of the Romans. The whole coast is quickly won in their opinion, and a common embassy is sent to Publius Crassus to invite him to return the hostages if he wants the officers to be returned to him.

9. Caesar, informed by Crassus, orders that while waiting for him - for he was far away - warships should be built on the Loire, a river which flows into the ocean, which rowers should be raised in the river. province and that we get sailors and pilots. It was provided with promptness, and he himself, as soon as the season permitted, surrendered to the army. The Veneti, as well as the other peoples, when they learn of the arrival of Caesar, as moreover they realized the gravity of their crime, - had they not retained and put in irons the ambassadors, title that have all nations always looked upon as sacred and inviolable? - make preparations for war commensurate with such a great danger, and mainly provide for the equipment of their ships; their hopes were all the stronger as the nature of the country inspired them a lot of confidence. They knew that the dirt roads were cut at high tide by bays, that ignorance of the place and the small number of ports made navigation difficult for us, and they thought that our armies, because of the lack of wheat, could not not stay long at home; supposing, moreover, that everything deceived their expectations, they were not unaware of the superiority of their navy, they realized that the Romans lacked vessels, that in the country where they were to make war roadsteads, ports, islands were theirs. unknown, finally that it was quite another thing to sail on a closed sea or on the immense and limitless ocean. Their resolutions taken, they fortify the towns, pile up the harvests there, and assemble in Veneto, where everyone thought that Caesar would open hostilities, as large a fleet as possible. They secure for this war the alliance of Osismes, Lexovii, Namnetes, Ambiliates, Morins, Diablintes, Menapes; they ask for help from Brittany, which is located opposite these regions.

10. We have just seen what were the difficulties of this war; and yet several reasons pushed Caesar to undertake it: Roman knights held back in defiance of the law, a revolt after submission, betrayal when hostages had been delivered, so many united cities, and above all the fear that if he neglected to punish these other peoples did not believe themselves authorized to act like them. Also, knowing that the Gauls in general like change and are quick to go to war, that besides all men naturally have at heart the love of freedom and the hatred of servitude, he thought he needed , before the coalition becomes more numerous, divide its army and distribute it over a larger area.

11. As a result, he sends his legate Titus Labiénus with cavalry among the Trevires, a people near the Rhine. He gave him the mission to get in touch with the Remes and the other Belgians and to keep them in duty, to block the road to the Germans, whom, it was said, the Gauls had called for their help, if they tried to force their boats to cross the river. Publius Crassus receives the order to leave for Aquitaine with twelve legionary cohorts and a large cavalry, in order to prevent the peoples of this country from sending aid to the Gauls and that two such great nations unite. The legate Quintus Titurius Sabinus is sent with three legions to the Unelles, the Coriosolites and the Lexovii, with the charge of keeping their troops at bay. He gives the young Decimus Brutus the command of the Gallic fleet and vessels that he had had provided by the Pictons and the Santons and by the other pacified regions, with the order to leave as soon as possible among the Veneti. He himself moves in this direction with the infantry.

12. The places in the region were generally located at the ends of tongues of land and promontories, so that they could not be reached on foot, when the sea was high - which happens regularly every twelve. hours - and that they were no longer accessible to the ships, because, at low tide, they would have run aground on the shallows. This was a double obstacle to the seats. And if ever, thanks to enormous works, by containing the sea by earthworks and dikes and by raising these works to the height of the ramparts, the besieged were led to believe themselves lost, they would push a large fleet to the shore - they had ships in abundance -, transported all their goods there and retired to the neighboring towns there, they found the same natural means of defense. This maneuver was repeated for a large part of the summer, all the more easily as our vessels were held up by the bad weather and that on this vast and open sea, subject to high tides, where there were few or no ports , navigation was extremely difficult.

13. The enemies had ships which were constructed and armed in the following manner. Their hulls were notably flatter than ours, so that they had less to fear shallows and ebbs; their prows were very raised, and the stems the same, adapted to the height of the waves and the violence of the storms; the whole ship was made of oak wood, to withstand all shocks and collisions; the ties were a foot thick, and were secured by iron pegs the size of an inch; the anchors were held not by ropes, but by iron chains; by way of veils, thin and supple skins, leathers, either because the linen was lacking and that we did not know the use of it, or, what is more likely, because it was thought that veils would resist the storms so violent of the ocean and its impetuous winds, and would not be able to sail such heavy ships. When our fleet met with such vessels, it had no other advantage than its rapidity and the momentum of the oars; all the rest was in favor of enemy ships, better suited to the nature of this sea and its storms. Indeed, our spurs could do nothing against them, so strong were they; the height of their edge made it that the projectiles did not reach them easily, and that it was difficult to harpoon them. Add to this that by spinning downwind, when it became violent, it was easier for them to withstand storms, which they could anchor on low sea-beds without so much fear of being run dry, finally, that, if the ebb left them, they had nothing to fear from rocks and reefs; all things which constituted a formidable danger for our vessels.

14. After having taken possession of several places, Caesar, seeing that he was taking unnecessary trouble, to take his towns from the enemy, that did not prevent him from stealing, and that he remained invulnerable, decided to wait for his fleet. When she arrived, barely had the enemy noticed her when about two hundred and twenty ships, all ready and perfectly equipped, left a port and came to line up opposite us. Neither Brutus, who commanded the fleet, nor the military tribunes and the centurions, who each had a vessel, were clear on the conduct to be held, on the method of combat to adopt. They realized, in fact, that the spur was ineffective; and if we raised towers, the enemy ships still dominated them thanks to the height of their stems, so that our projectiles, fired from below, carried badly, while those of the Gauls fell on the contrary with more force. . A single machine prepared by us was very useful: very sharp scythes fitted with long poles, quite similar to siege scythes. Once the ropes which attached the yards to the mast had been hooked and pulled to oneself with the aid of these machines, they were cut by using the force of oars. Then the yards inevitably fell, and the Gallic vessels, which could only count on sails and tackle, finding themselves deprived of them, were at the same time reduced to impotence. The rest of the fight was nothing more than a matter of courage, and in this our soldiers easily had the upper hand, especially since the battle was fought under the eyes of Caesar and the whole army, so that no action of any value could remain unknown: the army occupied, in fact, all the hills and all the heights from which the sea could be seen up close.

15. After her yards had been blown in the manner we have said, each ship was surrounded by two and sometimes three of our own, and our soldiers came up to board the board by force. When the barbarians saw what was happening, as many of their ships had already been captured, and they could find nothing to oppose this tactic, they sought their salvation in flight. Their ships were already catching the wind, when suddenly it fell, and it was such a good feeling, such calm, that the ships could not move. This circumstance was most favorable to us to complete our victory because we attacked and took the ships one after the other, and the number was tiny of those who were able, thanks to the night, to reach the shore, after a fight which had lasted from about the fourth hour of the day until sunset.

16. This battle put an end to the war of the Venetians and of all the peoples of this coast. For, apart from the fact that all the young men had come there, and even all those who, already old, were of good advice or occupied a certain rank, they had gathered on this one point all that they had of vessels; these lost ships, the survivors did not know where to take refuge or how to defend their cities. So they went to Caesar body and goods. He resolved to punish them severely so that in the future the barbarians would be more careful to respect the rights of ambassadors. Consequently, he had all the senators put to death and sold the rest at auction.

17. While these events were unfolding among the Veneti, Quintus Titurius Sabinus arrived, with the troops that Caesar had entrusted to him, to the One. These were headed by Viridovix; he also commanded all the cities in revolt, from which he had drawn an army, and very numerous; a few days after the arrival of Sabinus, the Aulerci Eburovices and Lexovii, having massacred their senate, which was opposed to the war, closed their doors and joined Viridovix; besides, a considerable multitude had come from all the corners of Gaul, people without confession and criminals whom the hope of booty and the love of war took away from agriculture and daily labor. Sabinus, established in a well-situated camp in all respects, confined himself there, while Viridovix had posted himself in front of him two miles away and each day, advancing his troops, offered combat: already the enemy was beginning to despise Sabinus, and the words of our soldiers themselves did not spare him; he gave it so much to believe that he was afraid that the enemy pushed his daring so far as to come to our parapet. His attitude was dictated to him by the thought that a legate should not, especially in the absence of the general-in-chief, fight against such a multitude, unless he had the advantage of the ground or some favorable opportunity for himself.

18. Once the opinion that he was afraid was well established, he chose a capable and skilful man, a Gaul, who was one of his auxiliaries. He obtains from him, by great gifts and promises, that he pass on to the enemy, and he explains to him what he wishes. The latter arrives by giving himself as a deserter, depicts the fear of the Romans, tells in what serious situation the Venets put Caesar himself: no later than the following night, Sabinus will raise the camp in secret to go and rescue him. At this news, everyone exclaimed that we must not let such a wonderful opportunity waste, we must march on the camp. Several reasons pushed the Gauls to this determination: the hesitation of Sabinus during the preceding days, the affirmations of the deserter, the lack of food, which they had not taken enough care to provide, the hopes awakened in them by the war: of the Venets, and finally the tendency that men generally have to believe what they want. Under the influence of these ideas, they do not allow Viridovix and the other leaders to leave the assembly until they have been ordered to take up arms and attack the camp. Joyful of this consent, as if they already had victory, they amass fascines and branches to fill in the ditches of the Romans, and they march on the camp.

19. This one was on a height which one reached by a gentle slope of about a thousand paces. They ran there very quickly, so that the Romans had as little time as possible to pull themselves together and take up arms, and they came out of breath. Sabinus, having harangued his troops, gives the signal that they were impatiently awaiting. The enemy was embarrassed by the burdens with which he was loaded: Sabinus orders a sudden exit through two doors. The advantage of the terrain, the inexperience and fatigue of the enemy, the courage of our soldiers and the training they had acquired in previous battles, all this meant that at the first shock the enemies gave in and took control. leak. Embarrassed in their movements, pursued by our own, whose forces were intact, they lost many people; those who remained were harassed by the cavalry, which only let a small number escape. Sabinus learned of the naval battle at the same time that Caesar was informed of his victory, and all the cities hastened to submit to him. Because as much the Gauls are, to take up arms, enthusiastic and prompt, so much they lack, to endure setbacks, of firmness and resilience.

20. Around the same time, Publius Crassus had arrived in Aquitaine; this region, as we said above, can be estimated, for its extent and its population, at the third of Gaul. Seeing that he was to make war in countries where, a few years before, Lucius Valérius Preconinus, legate, had been defeated and killed, and from where Lucius Manlius, proconsul, had had to flee, abandoning his baggage, he found himself realized that he would have to be particularly attentive. He therefore made his provisions of wheat, gathered auxiliaries and the cavalry, besides summoned individually, from Toulouse and Narbonne, cities of the province of Gaul which are neighbors of Aquitaine, a large number of tested soldiers; then he entered the territory of the Sotiates. At the news of his approach, they gathered together large troops and cavalry, which was their main force, and attacked our army on its march: they fought first a cavalry fight, then, as their cavalry had been. driven back and our people were pursuing them, suddenly they discovered their infantry, which they had placed in ambush in a valley. It rushed towards our dispersed soldiers, and a new fight began.

21. It was long and fierce: the Sotiates, strong in their previous victories, believed that the salvation of all Aquitaine depended on their valor; ours wanted to show what they could do in the absence of the general-in-chief, without the other legions and under the command of a very young man. Finally the enemies, covered with wounds, fled. Crassus made a great massacre of it and, without stopping, tried to attack the citadel of Sotiates. In the face of their vigorous resistance, he advanced mantelets and towers. They sometimes went out, sometimes dug mimes towards the earthworks and mantelets (this is a practice in which the Aquitans are particularly skilled, because there are, in many places, copper mines and quarries) ; but, having understood that the vigilance of our soldiers prevented them from obtaining any result by these means, they send deputies to Crassus and ask that he accept their submission. He consents, and, on his order, they hand over their weapons.

22. While this surrender held the attention of the whole army, on another side of the square, Adiatuanos, who held supreme power, appeared with six hundred men to his devotion, of those they call soldiers. ; the condition of these characters is the following: the one to whom they have dedicated their friendship must share with them all the goods of life; but if he perishes a violent death, they must either suffer at the same time as themselves the same fate or kill themselves; and in living memory no one has yet been seen who refused to die when the friend to whom he had devoted himself had perished. It was with this escort that Adiatuanos attempted an exit; a clamor arose on this side of the entrenchment, and our soldiers ran to arms: after a violent fight, Adiatuanos was driven back into the place; he nevertheless obtained from Crassus the same conditions as the others.

23. Having received arms and hostages, Crassus left for the land of the Vocates and Tarusates. So the Barbarians, deeply moved to learn that a place fortified by nature and by art had fallen in the few days which had followed our arrival, send deputies from all sides, exchange oaths, hostages, and mobilize their strengths. We also send ambassadors to the peoples who belong to the city of Spain, neighboring Aquitaine, we obtain relief troops and leaders. Their arrival allows them to go to war with excellent leadership and large numbers of troops. Men were chosen as leaders who had been constant companions of Sertorius and who were considered to be very expert in the art of warfare. They wage war in the Roman style, occupying favorable positions, fortifying their camps, cutting us off from food. When Crassus noticed that his troops, too few in number, could hardly be divided, that the enemies could move in all directions, block the roads, and yet leave the camp with sufficient guard, which for this reason he could not Refueled only with difficulty, as the enemies were more numerous every day, he judged that it should not delay any longer to give battle. He took the matter to the council, and when he saw that they were all of the same opinion, he fixed the battle for the next day.

24. At daybreak he deployed all his troops in front of the camp, in two lines, the auxiliaries in the center, and he awaited the decision of the enemies. But they, although their number, their glorious warlike traditions, the weakness of our troops fully reassured them about the outcome of a fight, they nevertheless found even safer, being masters of the roads and, thus, cutting us off food, to obtain the victory without striking a blow if the famine determined the Romans to beat a retreat, they proposed to attack them in full march, embarrassed of their convoys and loaded with their luggage, in conditions where their courage would be depressed. The chiefs having approved this plan, they left the Romans to deploy their troops and remained in the camp. When Crassus saw this, as, by his hesitations and by having the act of being afraid, the enemy had excited the ardor of our troops, and that there was only one voice to say that we It was not to delay attacking any longer, he harangued them and, spreading to everyone's wish, marched on the enemy camp.

25. There, while some were filling in the ditches, others, hurling a hail of arrows on the defenders, forcing them to abandon the parapet and the entrenchments; and the auxiliaries, in whom Crassus had little confidence as combatants, passed stones and ammunition, brought clods of sod to raise a terrace, and thus gave to believe that indeed they were fighting; the enemy, for his part, opposed a tenacious and valiant resistance, and his projectiles launched from above were not lacking in effectiveness. However, horsemen, having made the tour of the enemy camp, came to tell Crassus that on the side of the decumane gate the camp was less carefully fortified, and offered easy access.

26. Crassus invited the prefects of the cavalry to excite the zeal of their men by promising them rewards, and explained to them his intentions. The latter, according to the order received, brought out the cohorts which had been left in the guard of the camp and which were all fresh, and, by a roundabout path, so that they could not be seen from the enemy camp, they reached quickly, as the combat monopolized everyone's attention, the part of the entrenchment that we have said; they forced him, and reformed in the enemy's camp before the latter could see them well or realize what was happening. Then our people, hearing the clamor which arose on this side, felt new strength, as generally happens when one has the hope of conquering, and they redoubled their ardor. The enemies, seeing themselves enveloped on all sides and losing all hope, only thought of jumping down from the entrenchment to seek their salvation in flight. Our horsemen pursued them in the open countryside, and of the fifty thousand Aquitanians and Cantabrians who formed this army, barely a quarter escaped their blows; It was very late at night when they returned to the camp.

27. On hearing of this combat, the greater part of Aquitaine submitted to Crassus and spontaneously sent hostages: among these peoples were the Tarbelles, the Bigerrions, the Ptianii, the Vocates, the Tarusates, the Elusates, the Gates, the Auscs, the Garunni, the Sibuzates, the Cocsates; only a few, who were placed on the outskirts, trusting in the late season, for it was at the approach of winter, did not follow this example.

28. Around the same time, although the summer was almost at an end, Caesar nevertheless considered, as there was no longer in the whole of Gaul pacified except the Morins and the Menapes who were in arms and never had him. sent to ask for peace, that this was a war which could be ended quickly, and he led his army into those regions. He had to deal with a very different tactic from that of the other Gauls. Seeing, in fact, that the greatest peoples who had given battle to Caesar had been completely defeated, and possessing a region which was covered without interruption by forests and swamps, they moved there with all their goods. Caesar had reached the edge of these forests, he had started to build a camp and the enemies had not yet shown themselves, when suddenly, when our soldiers were at work and dispersed, they leapt from all sides out of the forest and charged ours. These quickly took up arms and drove them back to their woods; after having killed a very large number of them, they pursued them too far on too difficult ground, and lost some men.

29. The following days, Caesar decided to use them relentlessly to cut down the forest, and, so that our soldiers could not be surprised, unarmed, by a flank attack, he placed in front of the enemy all these cut trees and piled them up on each flank like a rampart. We had made in a few days, with incredible rapidity, a vast clearing, and already we had seized the cattle and the last baggage of the enemy, who was sinking into the heart of the forests, when the weather turned so bad that The work had to be interrupted and, the rain not ceasing, it became impossible to keep the men in the tent any longer. Consequently, after having ravaged the whole countryside, burning the towns and farms, Caesar brought back his army and made it take up its winter quarters among the Aulerci and the Lexovii, as well as among the other peoples who had just made war on us. .