The Great Events by Famous Historians/Volume 2/Caesar Conquers Gaul
CAESAR CONQUERS GAUL
(In Caesar's military performances the Gallic war plays the most important part, as shown in his Commentaries, his sole extant literary work and almost the only authority for this part of Roman history.
Cisalpine Gaul—that portion lying on the southern or Italian side of the Alps—came partly under the dominion of Rome as early as B.C. 282, when a Roman colony was founded at Sena Gallica. This division of Gaul was wholly conquered by B.C. 191; and in B.C. 43, having been made a Roman province, it became a part of Italy.
Transalpine Gaul—that part lying north and northwest of the Alps from Rome—comprised in Caesar's day three divisions: Aquitaine to the southwest, Celtic Gaul in the middle, and Belgic Gaul to the northwest. The region was inhabited by various tribes having neither unity of race nor of customs whereby nationality becomes distinguished. Toward the close of the second century B.C. the Romans made their first settlements in Transalpine Gaul, in the southeastern part. At the time when Caesar became proconsul in Gaul, B.C. 58, the province was in a state of tranquillity, but Fortune seemed determined that he should have great opportunities for the display of his military genius, and, when Asia had been subdued by Pompey, "conferred what remained to be done in Europe upon Caesar." The attempt of the Helvetii to leave their homes in the Alps for new dwelling-places in Gaul served him as an occasion for war. As they were crossing the Arar [now Saone] he attacked and routed them, later defeated them again, and at last drove them back to their own country.
The story of the long war, with its various campaigns, has become familiar to the world's readers through the masterly account of Caesar himself, known to "every schoolboy" who advances to the dignity of classical studies. In the end the country between the Pyrenees and the Rhine was subjugated, and for several centuries it remained a Roman province.
At the time when the history is taken up in the following narrative by Napoleon III, the great rebellion, B.C. 52, had sustained a heavy blow in the surrender of Alesia, and the capture of the heroic chief and leader of the insurrection, Vercingetorix, whom Caesar exhibited in his triumph at Rome, B.C. 46, and then caused to be put to death.
The distinguished author of the article says he wrote "for the purpose of proving that when Providence raises up such men as Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon it is to trace out to peoples the path they ought to follow, to stamp with the seal of their genius a new era, and to accomplish in a few years the work of many centuries." The work was prepared [vide Manual of Historical Literature: Adams] with the utmost care—a care which extended in some instances to special surveys, to insure perfect accuracy in the descriptions, etc.)
The capture of Alesia and that of Vercingetorix, in spite of the united efforts of all Gaul, naturally gave Caesar hopes of a general submission; and he therefore believed that he could leave his army during the winter to rest quietly in its quarters from the hard labors which had lasted without interruption during the whole of the past summer. But the spirit of insurrection was not extinct among the Gauls; and convinced by experience that whatever might be their number they could not in a body cope with troops inured to war, they resolved, by partial insurrections raised on all points at once, to divide the attention and the forces of the Romans as their only chance of resisting them with advantage.
Caesar was unwilling to leave them time to realize this new plan, but gave the command of his winter quarters to his quaestor, Mark Antony; quitted Bibracte on the day before the Calends of January (the 25th of December) with an escort of cavalry, joined the Thirteenth legion, which was in winter quarters among the Bituriges, not far from the frontier of the Aldui, and called to him the Eleventh legion, which was the nearest at hand. Having left two cohorts of each legion to guard the baggage, he proceeded toward the fertile country of the Bituriges, a vast territory, where the presence of a single legion was insufficient to put a stop to the preparations for insurrection.
His sudden arrival in the midst of men without distrust, who were spread over the open country, produced the result which he expected. They were surprised before they could enter into their oppidae—for Caesar had strictly forbidden everything which might have raised their suspicion; especially the application of fire, which usually betrays the sudden presence of an enemy. Several thousands of captives were made. Those who succeeded in escaping sought in vain a refuge among the neighboring nations. Caesar, by forced marches, came up with them everywhere and obliged each tribe to think of its own safety before that of others.
This activity held the populations in their fidelity, and through fear engaged the wavering to submit to the conditions of peace. Thus the Bituriges, seeing that Caesar offered them an easy way to recover his protection, and that the neighboring states had suffered no other chastisement than that of having to deliver hostages, did not hesitate in submitting.
The soldiers of the Eleventh and Thirteenth legions had, during the winter, supported with rare constancy the fatigues of very difficult marches in intolerable cold. To reward them he promised to give by way of prize-money two hundred sestertii to each soldier and two thousand to each centurion. He then sent them into their winter quarters and returned to Bibracte after an absence of forty days. While he was there, dispensing justice, the Bituriges came to implore his support against the attacks of the Carnutes. Although it was only eighteen days since he returned, he marched again at the head of two legions—the Sixth and the Fourteenth—which had been placed on the Saone to insure the supply of provisions.
On his approach the Carnutes, taught by the fate of others, abandoned their miserable huts—which they had erected on the site of their burgs and oppida destroyed in the last campaign—and fled in every direction.
Caesar, unwilling to expose his soldiers to the rigor of the season, established his camp at Genabum (Gien), and lodged them partly in the huts which had remained undestroyed, partly in tents under penthouses covered with straw. The cavalry and auxiliary infantry were sent in pursuit of the Carnutes, who, hunted down everywhere, and without shelter, took refuge in the neighboring counties.
After having dispersed some rebellious meetings and stifled the germs of an insurrection, Caesar believed that the summer would pass without any serious war. He left therefore at Genabum the two legions he had with him, and gave the command of them to C. Trebonius.
Nevertheless, he learned by several intimations from the Remi that the Bellovaci and neighboring peoples, with Correus and Commius at their head, were collecting troops to make an inroad on the territory of the Suessiones, who had been placed—since the campaign of 697—under the dependence of the Remi.
He considered that he regarded his interest as well as his dignity in protecting allies who had deserved so well of the republic. He again drew the Eleventh legion from its winter quarters, sent written orders to C. Fabius, who was encamped in the country of the Remi, to bring into that of the Suessiones the two legions under his command, and demanded one of his legions from Labienus, who was at Besançon. Thus without taking any rest himself he shared the fatigues among the legions by turns, as far as the position of the winter quarters and the necessities of the war permitted.
When this army was assembled he marched against the Bellovaci, established his camp on their territory, and sent cavalry in every direction in order to make some prisoners and learn from them the designs of the enemy. The cavalry reported that the emigration was general, and that the few inhabitants who were to be seen were not remaining behind in order to apply themselves to agriculture, but to act as spies upon the Romans.
Caesar by interrogating the prisoners learned that all the Bellovaci able to fight had assembled on one spot, and that they had been joined by the Ambiani, the Aulerci, the Caletes, the Veliocasses, and the Atrebates. Their camp was in a forest on a height surrounded by marshes—Mont Saint Marc, in the forest of Compiègne; their baggage had been transported to more distant woods. The command was divided among several chiefs, but the greater part obeyed Correus on account of his well-known hatred of the Romans. Commius had a few days before gone to seek succor from the numerous Germans who lived in great numbers in the neighboring counties—probably those on the banks of the Meuse.
The Bellovaci resolved with one accord to give Caesar battle, if, as report said, he was advancing with only three legions; for they would not run the risk of having afterward to encounter his entire army. If, on the contrary, the Romans were advancing with more considerable forces they proposed to keep their positions and confine themselves to intercepting, by means of ambuscades, the provisions and forage, which were very scarce at that season.
This plan, confirmed by many reports, seemed to Caesar full of prudence and altogether contrary to the usual rashness of the barbarians. He took therefore every possible care to dissimulate as to the number of his troops. He had with him the Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth legions, composed of old soldiers of tried valor, and the Eleventh, which, formed of picked young men who had gone through eight campaigns, deserved his confidence, although it could not be compared with the others with regard to bravery and experience in war. In order to deceive the enemy by showing them only three legions—the only number they were willing to fight—he placed the Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth in one line; while the baggage, which was not very considerable, was placed behind under the protection of the Eleventh legion, which closed the march. In this order, which formed almost a square, he came unawares in sight of the Bellovaci. At the unexpected view of the legions, which advanced in order of battle and with a firm step, they lost their courage and, instead of attacking, as they had engaged to do, they confined themselves to drawing themselves up before their camp without leaving the height. A valley deeper than it was wide separated the two armies.
On account of this obstacle and the numerical superiority of the barbarians, Caesar, though he had wished for battle, abandoned the idea of attacking them and placed his camp opposite that of the Gauls in a strong position. He caused it to be surrounded with a parapet twelve feet high, surmounted by accessory works proportioned to the importance of the retrenchment and preceded by a double fosse fifteen feet wide, with a square bottom. Towers of three stories were constructed from distance to distance and united together by covered bridges, the exterior parts of which were protected by hurdle-work. In this manner the camp was protected not only by a double fosse, but also by a double row of defenders, some of whom, placed on the bridges, could from this elevated and sheltered position throw their missiles farther and with a better aim; while the others, placed on the vallum, nearer to the enemy, were protected by the bridges from the missiles which showered down upon them. The entrances were defended by means of higher towers and were closed with gates.
These formidable retrenchments had a double aim—to increase the confidence of the barbarians by making them believe that they were feared, and next to allow the number of the garrison to be reduced with safety when they had to go far for provisions. For some days there were no serious engagements, but slight skirmishes in the marshy plain which extended between the two camps. The capture, however, of a few foragers did not fail to swell the presumption of the barbarians, which was still more increased by the arrival of Commius, although he had brought only five hundred German cavalry.
The enemy remained for several days shut up in its impregnable position. Caesar judged that an assault would cost too many lives; an investment alone seemed to him opportune, but it would require a greater number of troops.
He wrote thereupon to Trebonius to send him as soon as possible the Thirteenth legion, which, under the command of T. Sextius, was in winter quarters among the Bituriges, to join it with the Sixth and the Fourteenth (which the first of these lieutenants commanded at Genabum) and to come himself with these three legions by forced marches.
During this time he employed the numerous cavalry of the Remi, the Lingones and the other allies, to protect the foragers and to prevent surprises, but this daily service, as is often the case, ended by being negligently performed. And one day the Remi, pursuing the Bellovaci with too much ardor, fell into an ambuscade. In withdrawing they were surrounded by foot-soldiers in the midst of whom Vertiscus, their chief, met with his death. True to his Gaulish nature, he would not allow his age to exempt him from commanding and mounting on horseback, although he was hardly able to keep his seat. His death and this feeble advantage raised the self-confidence of the barbarians still more, but it rendered the Romans more circumspect.
Nevertheless, in one of the skirmishes which were continually taking place within sight of the two camps about the fordable places of the marsh, the German infantry—which Caesar had sent for from beyond the Rhine in order to mix them with the cavalry—joined in a body, boldly crossed the marsh, and, meeting with little resistance, continued the pursuit with such impetuosity that fear seized not only the enemy who fought, but even those who were in reserve. Instead of availing themselves of the advantages of the ground, all fled in a cowardly manner. They did not stop until they were within their camp, and some even were not ashamed to fly beyond it. This defeat caused a general discouragement, for the Gauls were as easily daunted by the least reverse as they were made arrogant by the smallest success.
Day after day was passing in this manner when Caesar was informed of the arrival of C. Trebonius and his troops, which raised the number of his legions to seven. The chiefs of the Bellovaci then feared an investment like that of Alesia, and resolved to quit their position. They sent away by night the old men, the infirm, the unarmed men, and the part of the baggage which they had kept with them. Scarcely was this confused multitude in motion—embarrassed by its own mass and its numerous chariots—when daylight surprised it, and the troops had to be drawn up in line before the camp to give the column time to move away. Caesar saw no advantage either in giving battle to those who were in position, nor, on account of the steepness of the hill, in pursuing those who were making their retreat; he resolved, nevertheless, to make two legions advance in order to disturb the enemy in its retreat. Having observed that the mountain on which the Gauls were established was connected with another height (Mont Collet), from which it was only separated by a narrow valley, he ordered bridges to be thrown across the marsh. The legions crossed over them and soon attained the summit of the height, which was defended on both sides by abrupt declivities.
There he collected his troops and advanced in order of battle up to the extremity of the plateau, whence the engines placed in battery could reach the masses of the enemy with their missiles.
The barbarians, rendered confident by the advantage of their position, were ready to accept battle if the Romans dared to attack the mountain; besides, they were afraid to withdraw their troops successively, as, if divided, they might have been thrown into disorder. This attitude led Cæsar to resolve upon leaving twenty cohorts under arms, and on tracing a camp on this spot and retrenching it. When the works were completed the legions were placed before the retrenchments and the cavalry distributed with their horses bridled at the outposts. The Bellovaci had recourse to a stratagem in order to effect their retreat. They passed from hand to hand the fascines and the straw on which, according to the Gaulish custom, they were in the habit of sitting, preserving at the same time their order of battle; placed them in front of the camp, and toward the close of the day, on a preconcerted signal, set fire to them. Immediately a vast flame concealed from the Romans the Gaulish troops, who fled in haste.
Although the fire prevented Cæsar from seeing the retreat of the enemy he suspected it. He ordered his legions to advance, and sent the cavalry in pursuit, but he marched slowly in fear of some stratagem, suspecting the barbarians to have formed the design of drawing the Romans to disadvantageous ground. Besides, the cavalry did not dare to ride through the smoke and flames; and thus the Bellovaci were able to pass over a distance of ten miles and halt in a place strongly fortified by nature (Mont Ganelon), where they pitched their camp. In this position they confined themselves to placing cavalry and infantry in frequent ambuscades, thus inflicting great damage on the Romans when they went to forage. After several encounters of this kind Cæsar learned by a prisoner that Correus, chief of the Bellovaci, with six thousand picked infantry and one thousand horsemen, was preparing an ambuscade in places where the abundance of corn and forage was likely to attract the Romans. In consequence of this information he sent forward the cavalry, which was always employed to protect the foragers, and joined with them some light-armed auxiliaries, while he himself, with a greater number of legions, followed them as closely as possible.
The enemy had posted themselves in a plain—that of Choisy-au-Bac—of about one thousand paces in length and the same in breadth, surrounded on one side by forests, on the other by a river which was difficult to pass (the Aisne). The cavalry becoming acquainted with the designs of the Gauls and feeling themselves supported, advanced resolutely in squadrons toward this plain, which was surrounded with ambushes on all sides.
Correus, seeing them arrive in this manner, believed the opportunity favorable for the execution of his plan and began by attacking the first squadrons with a few men. The Romans sustained the shock without concentrating themselves in a mass on the same point, "which," says Hirtius, "usually happens in cavalry engagements, and leads always to a dangerous confusion." There, on the contrary, the squadrons, remaining separated, fought in detached bodies, and when one of them advanced, its flanks were protected by the others. Correus then ordered the rest of his cavalry to issue from the woods. An obstinate combat began on all sides without any decisive result until the enemy's infantry, debouching from the forest in close ranks, forced the Roman cavalry to fall back. The lightly armed soldiers who preceded the legions placed themselves between the squadrons and restored the fortune of the combat. After a certain time the troops, animated by the approach of the legions and the arrival of Caesar, and ambitious of obtaining alone the honor of the victory, redoubled their efforts and gained the advantage. The enemy, on the other hand, were discouraged and took to flight, but were stopped by the very obstacles which they intended to throw in the way of the Romans. A small number, nevertheless, escaped through the forest and crossed the river. Correus, who remained unshaken under this catastrophe, obstinately refused to surrender, and fell pierced with wounds. After this success Caesar hoped that if he continued his march the enemy in dismay would abandon his camp, which was only eight miles from the field of battle. He therefore crossed the Aisne, though not without great difficulties.
The Bellovaci and their allies, informed by the fugitives of the death of Correus, of the loss of their cavalry and the flower of their infantry, and fearing every moment to see the Romans appear, convoked by sound of trumpet a general assembly and decided by acclamation to send deputies and hostages to the proconsul. The barbarians implored forgiveness, alleging that this last defeat had ruined their power, and that the death of Correus, the instigator of the war, delivered them from oppression, for, during his life, it was not the senate which governed, but an ignorant multitude. To their prayers Caesar replied that last year the Bellovaci had revolted in concert with the other Gaulish peoples, but that they alone had persisted in the revolt. It was very convenient to throw their faults upon those who were dead, but how could it be believed that with nothing but the help of a weak populace a man should have had sufficient influence to raise and sustain a war contrary to the will of the chiefs, the decision of the senate, and the desire of honest people? However, the evil which they had drawn upon themselves was for him a sufficient reparation.
The following night the Bellovaci and their allies submitted, with the exception of Commius, who fled to the country from which he had but recently drawn support. He had not dared to trust the Romans for the following reason: "The year before, in the absence of Caesar, T. Labienus, informed that Commius was conspiring and preparing an insurrection, thought that without accusing him of bad faith," says Hirtius, "he could repress his treason." ("Under pretext of an interview he sent C. Volusenus Quadratus, with some centurions, to kill him; but when they were in the presence of the Gaulish chief the centurion who was to strike him missed his blow and only wounded him; swords were drawn on both sides and Commius had time to escape.")
The most warlike tribes had been vanquished and none of them dreamed of further revolt. Nevertheless, many inhabitants of the newly conquered countries abandoned the towns and the fields in order to withdraw themselves from the Roman dominion. Caesar, in order to put a stop to this emigration, distributed his army in different countries. He ordered the quaestor, Mark Antony, to come to him with the Twelfth legion, and sent the lieutenant Fabius with twenty-five cohorts into an opposite part of Gaul—to the country situated between the Creuse and the Vienne—where it was said that several tribes were in arms, and where the lieutenant, Caninius Rebilus, who commanded with two legions, did not appear to be sufficiently strong. Lastly, he ordered T. Labienus to join him in person and to send the Fifteenth legion, which he had under his command, into Cisalpine Gaul to protect the colonies of Roman citizens there against the sudden inroads of the barbarians, who the summer before had attacked the Tergestini (the inhabitants of Trieste).
As for Cæsar, he proceeded with four legions to the territory of the Eburones to lay it waste. As he could not secure Ambiorix, who was still wandering at large, he thought it advisable to destroy everything by fire and sword, persuaded that this chief would never dare to return to a country upon which he had brought such a terrible calamity. The legions and the auxiliaries were charged with the execution of this plan. Then he sent Labienus, with two legions, to the country of the Treviri, who, always at war with the Germans, were only kept in obedience by the presence of a Roman army.
During this time Caninius Rebilus, who had first been appointed to go into the country of the Ruteni, but who had been detained by petty insurrections in the region situated between the Creuse and the Vienne, learned that numerous hostile bands were assembling in the country of the Pictones. He was informed of this by letters from Duratius, their king, who, amid the defection of a part of his people, had remained invariably faithful to the Romans. He started immediately for Lemonum (Poitiers). On the road he learned from prisoners that Duratius was shut up there and besieged by several thousand men under the orders of Dumnacus, chief of the Andes.
Rebilus, at the head of two weak legions, did not dare to measure his strength with the enemy; he contented himself with establishing his camp in a strong position. At the news of his approach, Dumnacus raised the siege, and marched to meet the legions, but after several days of fruitless attempts to force their camp he returned to attack Lemonum.
Meanwhile, the lieutenant, Caius Fabius, occupied in pacifying several other tribes, learned from Caninius Rebilus what was going on in the country of the Pictones and marched without delay to the assistance of Duratius. The news of the march of Fabius deprived Dumnacus of all hope of opposing, at the same time, the troops shut up in Lemonum and the relieving army. He abandoned the siege again in great haste, not thinking himself safe until he had placed the Loire between himself and the Romans; but he could only pass that river where there was a bridge (at Saumur). Before he had joined Rebilus, before he had even obtained a sight of the enemy, Fabius, who came from the North, and had lost no time, doubted not, from what he heard from the people of the country, that Dumnacus, in his fear, had taken the road which led to that bridge. He therefore marched thither with his legions, preceded at a short distance by his cavalry. The latter surprised the column of Dumnacus on its march, dispersed it, and returned to the camp laden with booty.
During the night of the following day Fabius again sent his cavalry forward with orders to delay the march of the enemy so as to give time for the arrival of the infantry. The two bodies of cavalry were soon engaged, but the enemy, thinking he had to contend with only the same troops as the day before, drew up his infantry in line so as to support the squadrons, when suddenly the Roman legions appeared in order of battle. At this sight the barbarians were struck with terror, the long train of baggage thrown into confusion, and the infantry dispersed. More than twelve thousand men were killed and all the baggage fell into the hands of the Romans.
Only five thousand fugitives escaped from this rout; they were received by the Senonan, Drappes, the same who in the first revolt of the Gauls had collected a crowd of vagabonds, slaves, exiles, and robbers to intercept the convoys of the Romans.
They took the direction of the Narbonnese with the Cadurcan Lucterius who had before attempted a similar invasion.
Rebilus pursued them with two legions in order to avoid the shame of seeing the province suffering any injury from such a contemptible rabble. As for Fabius, he led the twenty-five cohorts against the Carnutes and the other tribes whose forces had already been reduced by the defeat they had suffered from Dumnacus. The Carnutes, though often beaten, had never been completely subdued. They gave hostages, and the Armoricans followed their example. Dumnacus, driven out of his own territory, went to seek a refuge in the remotest part of Gaul.
Drappes and Lucterius, when they learned that they were pursued by Rebilus and his two legions, gave up the design of penetrating into the province; they halted in the country of the Cadurci and threw themselves into the oppidum of Uxellodunum (Puy-d'Issolu, near Varac), an exceedingly strong place formerly under the dependence of Lucterius, who soon incited the inhabitants to revolt.
Rebilus appeared immediately before the town, which, surrounded on all sides by steep rocks, was, even without being defended, difficult of access to armed men. Knowing that there was in the oppidum so great a quantity of baggage that the besieged could not send it away secretly without being detected and overtaken by the cavalry, and even by the infantry, he divided his cohorts into three bodies and established three camps on the highest points. Next he ordered a countervallation to be made. On seeing these preparations the besieged remembered the ill-fortune of Alesia, and feared a similar fate. Lucterius, who had witnessed the horrors of famine during the investment of that town, now took especial care of the provisions.
During this time the garrison of the oppidum attacked the redoubts of Rebilus several times, which obliged him to interrupt the work of the countervallation, which, indeed, he had not sufficient forces to defend.
Drappes and Lucterius established themselves at a distance of ten miles from the oppidum, with the intention of introducing the provisions gradually. They shared the duties between them. Drappes remained with part of the troops to protect the camp. Lucterius, during the night-time, endeavored to introduce beasts of burden into the town by a narrow and wooded path. The noise of their march gave warning to the sentries. Rebilus, informed of what was going on, ordered the cohorts to sally from the neighboring redoubts, and at daybreak fell upon the convoy, the escort of which was slaughtered. Lucterius, having escaped with a small number of his followers, was unable to rejoin Drappes.
Rebilus soon learned from prisoners that the rest of the troops which had left the oppidum were with Drappes at a distance of twelve miles, and that by a fortunate chance not one fugitive had taken that direction to carry him news of the last combat. The Roman general sent in advance all the cavalry and the light German infantry; he followed them with one legion, without baggage, leaving the other as a guard to the three camps. When he came near the enemy he learned, by his scouts, that the barbarians—according to their custom of neglecting the heights—had placed their camp on the banks of a river (probably the Dordogne); that the Germans and the cavalry had surprised them, and that they were already fighting. Rebilus then advanced rapidly at the head of the legion drawn up in order of battle and took possession of the heights.
As soon as the ensigns appeared, the cavalry redoubled its ardor; the cohorts rushed forward from all sides and the Gauls were taken or killed. The booty was immense and Drappes fell into the hands of the Romans.
Rebilus, after this successful exploit, which cost him but a few wounded, returned under the walls of Uxellodunum. Fearing no longer any attack from without, he set resolutely to work to continue his circumvallation. The day after, C. Fabius arrived, followed by his troops, and shared with him the labors of the siege. While the south of Gaul was the scene of serious trouble, Cæsar left the quaestor, Mark Antony, with fifteen cohorts in the country of the Bellovaci. To deprive the Belgæ of all idea of revolt he had proceeded to the neighboring countries with two legions; had exacted hostages, and restored confidence by his conciliating speeches. When he arrived among the Carnutes—who the year before had been the first to revolt—he saw that the remembrance of their conduct kept them in great alarm, and he resolved to put an end to it by causing his vengeance to fall only upon Gutruatus, the instigator of the war.
This man was brought in and delivered up. Although Cæsar was naturally inclined to be indulgent, he could not resist the tumultuous entreaties of his soldiers, who made that chief responsible for all the dangers they had run and for all the misery they had suffered. Gutruatus died under the stripes and was afterward beheaded.
It was in the land of the Carnutes that Cæsar received news, by the letters of Rebilus, of the events which had taken place at Uxellodunum and of the resistance of the besieged. Although a handful of men shut up in a fortress was not very formidable, he judged it necessary to punish their obstinacy, for fear that the Gauls should entertain the conviction that it was not strength, but constancy, which had failed them in resisting the Romans; and lest this example might encourage the other states which possessed fortresses advantageously situated, to recover their independence.
Moreover, it was known everywhere among the Gauls that Cæsar had only one more summer to hold his command, and that after that time they would have nothing more to fear. He left therefore the lieutenant Quintus Calenus at the head of his two legions, with orders to follow him by ordinary marches, and, with his cavalry, hastened by long marches toward Uxellodunum. Cæsar, arriving unexpectedly before the town, found it completely defended at all accessible points. He judged that it could not be taken by assault (neque ab oppugnatione recedi vidaret ulla conditione posse), and, as it was abundantly provided with provisions, conceived the project of depriving the inhabitants of water.
The mountain was surrounded almost on every side by very low ground, but on one side there existed a valley through which a river (the Tourmente) ran. As it flowed at the foot of two precipitous mountains the disposition of the localities did not admit of turning it aside and conducting it into lower channels. It was difficult for the besieged to come down to it, and the Romans rendered the approaches to it still more dangerous. They placed posts of archers and slingers, and brought engines which commanded all the slopes which gave access to the river. The besieged had thenceforth no other means of procuring water but by carrying it from an abundant spring which arose at the foot of the wall three hundred feet from the channel of the Tourmente. Cæsar resolved to drain this spring, and for this purpose he did not hesitate to attempt a laborious undertaking. Opposite the point where it rose he ordered covered galleries to be pushed forward against the mountain, and under protection of these a terrace to be raised—labors which were carried on in the midst of continual fighting and weariness.
Although the besieged from their elevated position fought without danger and wounded many Romans, yet the latter did not yield to discouragement, but continued the work. At the same time they made a subterranean gallery, which, running from the covered galleries, was intended to lead up to the spring. This work, carried on free from all danger, was executed without being perceived by the enemy. The terrace attained a height of sixty feet and was surmounted by a tower of ten stories, which, without equalling the elevation of the wall—a result it was impossible to obtain—still commanded the fountain. Its approaches, battered by engines from the top of this tower, became inaccessible. In consequence of this, many men and animals in the place died of thirst. The besieged, terrified at this mortality, filled barrels with pitch, grease, and shavings, and rolled them flaming upon the Roman works, making at the same time a sally to prevent them from extinguishing the fire. Soon it spread to the covered galleries and the terrace, which stopped the progress of the inflammable materials.
Notwithstanding the difficult nature of the ground and the increasing danger, the Romans still persevered in their struggle. The battle took place on a height within sight of the army. Loud cries were raised on both sides. Each individual sought to rival his fellow in zeal, and the more he was exposed to view the more courageously he faced the missiles and the fire.
Caesar, as he was sustaining great loss, determined to feign an assault. In order to create a diversion he ordered some cohorts to climb the hill on all sides, uttering loud cries. This movement terrified the besieged, who, fearing to be attacked at other points, called back to the defence of the wall those who were setting fire to the works. Then the Romans were enabled to extinguish the flames. The Gauls, although exhausted by thirst and reduced to a small number, ceased not to defend themselves vigorously. At length the subterranean gallery having reached the source of the spring, the supply was turned aside. The besieged, beholding the fountain suddenly become dry, believed in their despair that it was an intervention of the gods, and, submitting to necessity, surrendered.
Caesar considered that the pacification of Gaul would never be completed if as strong a resistance was encountered in other towns. He thought it advisable to spread terror by a severe example—so much the more so as "the well-known mildness of his temper," says Hirtius, "would not allow this necessary rigor to be ascribed to cruelty." He ordered that all those who had borne arms should have their hands cut off, and sent them away living examples of the punishment reserved for rebels.
Drappes, who had been taken prisoner, starved himself to death; Lucterius, who had been arrested by the Arvernan Epasnactus (a friend of the Romans), was delivered up to Caesar. While these events were taking place on the banks of the Dordogne, Labienus, in a cavalry engagement, had gained a decisive advantage over a part of the Treviri and Germans; had taken prisoner their chief, and thus subjected a people who were always ready to support any insurrection against the Romans. The Aeduan Surus fell also into his hands. He was a chief distinguished for his courage and birth, and the only one of that nation who had not yet laid down his arms.
From that moment Caesar considered Gaul to be completely pacified. He resolved, however, to go himself to Aquitaine, which he had not yet visited and which Publius Crassus had partly conquered. Arriving there at the head of two legions, he obtained the complete submission of that country without difficulty. All the tribes sent him hostages. He proceeded next to Narbonne with a detachment of cavalry and charged his lieutenants to put the army into winter quarters. Four legions, under the orders of Mark Antony, Caius Trebonius, Publius Vatinius, and Q. Tullius, were quartered in Belgium, two among the Aedui and two among the Turones on the frontier of the Carnutes, to hold in check all the countries bordering on the ocean.
These two last legions took up their winter quarters on the territory of the Lemovices, not far from the Arverni, so that no part of Gaul should be without troops. Caesar remained but a short time in the province, presiding hastily over the assemblies, determining cases of public dispute, and rewarding those who had served him well. He had had occasion more than anyone to know their sentiments individually, because during the general revolt of Gaul the fidelity and succor of the province had aided him in triumphing over it. When these affairs were settled he returned to his legions in Belgium and took up his winter quarters at Nemetocenna (Arras).
There he was informed of the last attempts of Commius, who, continuing a partisan war at the head of a small number of cavalry, intercepted the Roman convoys. Mark Antony had charged C. Volusenus Quadratus, prefect of the cavalry, to pursue him. He had accepted the task eagerly in the hope of succeeding the second time better than the first, but Commius, taking advantage of the rash ardor with which his enemy had rushed upon him, had wounded him seriously and escaped. He was discouraged, however, and had promised Mark Antony to retire to any spot which should be appointed him on condition that he should never be compelled to appear before a Roman. This condition having been accepted, he had given hostages. Gaul was hereby subjugated. Death or slavery had carried off its principal citizens. Of all the chiefs who had fought for its independence only two survived—Commius and Ambiorix.
Banished far from their country they died in obscurity.
- From Louis Napoleon's Julius Caesar, by permission of Harper & Brothers.