Research Paper: Gallic Campaigns Caesar

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[. . .] The Britons had a structure that was more like the Germanic tribes, but they also had a hierarchical government like the Romans and the Gauls. [22: Commentarii de Bellum Gallico. Trans W.A. MacDevitt. New York: Everyman's Library, 1915.3:1.] [23: Athena Review. "Caesar's Campaigns in Gaul (58-50 BC)." Athena Review, 1:4 (2007).] [24: Ibid.]

Some of Caesar's most interesting notes while fighting the Germans were those that he made concerning the actions of the druids. The Gallic people and the Britons worshipped gods who were patterned after those of the Greeks and Romans[footnoteRef:25]. But, the Germans had a much simpler belief. The Druids spoke to their gods who were supposed to be composed of the natural elements around them. The Druids spent years just memorizing the ancient tales and traditions of their ancestors because they did not want the people to become knowledgeable of the more intimate facets of their religion. The Druids also practiced much human sacrifice which was of particular interest to Caesar[footnoteRef:26]. He devoted a great deal of the sixth book of the de Bellum Gallico to the practices of these priests. [25: Ibid.] [26: Commentarii de Bellum Gallico. Trans W.A. MacDevitt. New York: Everyman's Library, 1915.6:16.]

56 BC

The next year was devoted to the total subjugation of Gaul. Caesar first wanted to make sure that the land was secured, so he headed for the coast along the English Channel. In just three short years he had subjugated for Rome much of modern Europe and had committed all of the people to Rome's rule. In this third year, he spent much of the time in a naval war in what is modern Brittany. This ended his conquest of the lands of Gaul and began his management of them. He would start the next year by seeking new places to send his troops.

55 BC

Since Gaul was secure, Caesar wanted to make sure that the northern borders of the new territory that he had acquired would not be threatened by the barbarian hordes of the Germans. Although Caesar had once subjected them to rout when they had crossed the Rhine against the Sequani, he still believed that they were a powerful enough enemy that he needed to make sure that they did not venture south into Gaul[footnoteRef:27]. [27: Athena Review. "Caesar's Campaigns in Gaul (58-50 BC)." Athena Review, 1:4 (2007).]

Several German tribes had been driven from their own land and settled in Gaul, but Caesar wanted to make sure that the warlike nature of the northern tribes stayed contained and away from Gaul. He started by talking to the Germans, but they attacked his troops while negotiations were underway. The leaders of the German tribes met with Caesar and apologized for their actions, but Caesar held them while his troops attacked the German armies. After defeating the Germans who were south of the Rhine, Caesar spent ten days building a bridge across with his army. When the bridge was finished, Caesar took his army across the Rhine and ravaged the German countryside for the next 18 days[footnoteRef:28]. After he had finished with this, he crossed the Rhine again and burned the bridge he had built. [28: Commentarii de Bellum Gallico. Trans W.A. MacDevitt. New York: Everyman's Library, 1915.4:19.]

The summer was not over yet, so Caesar determined that he would see what was across the Channel. He had heard rumors of what the British Isles were like, but he wanted to find out for himself. There had been many rumors among the Romans about the islands, and they were raised to the level of legends by many. The tribes were said to be fierce and cannibalistic, or, some said, they contained the gods[footnoteRef:29]. No one knew, and Julius wanted to find out for himself. He took his armies across the channel late in the summer with an idea to just look around quickly and then sail back to Gaul. When he arrived in Britain he found the people there to be much like the Germans, and had several battles with them in which he was constantly victorious. Unfortunately for the Romans, most of their fleet was destroyed and the Britons took courage. Caesar again defeated them though, and the Britons pledged to send him more tribute[footnoteRef:30]. Upon hearing of Caesar's conquests, the Roman senate declared a 20 day feast of thanksgiving in his honor[footnoteRef:31] [29: British conjecture.] [30: Commentarii de Bellum Gallico. Trans W.A. MacDevitt. New York: Everyman's Library, 1915.4:36.] [31: Athena Review. "Caesar's Campaigns in Gaul (58-50 BC)." Athena Review, 1:4 (2007).]

54 BC

The next year the Romans shipped five legions across the channel on 800 ships built and borrowed for the purpose, and again attempted to conquer the Britons[footnoteRef:32]. The Britons put forth a concerted effort to repel the Romans under the command of Cassivellaunus a leader who was regarded as the strongest man in Briton. Caesar wrote, "When he had come thither, greater forces of the Britons had already assembled at that place, the chief command and management of the war having been entrusted to Cassivellaunus, whose territories a river, which is called the Thames, separates from the maritime states at about eighty miles from the sea. At an earlier period perpetual wars had taken place between him and the other states; but, greatly alarmed by our arrival, the Britons had placed him over the whole war and the conduct of it"[footnoteRef:33]. The Britons used the same method of fighting that they had been somewhat successful with before. They fought from chariots against the foot soldier legions of the Romans. At first, the legions were in a small amount of confusion, but, in the end, they overcame the Briton forces and demanded of them the same tribute that had previously been ordered. However, when Caesar left with his armies, he had not improved the state of Briton to any degree. The Romans established no permanent communities and they built no forts to protect their interests[footnoteRef:34]. So, the Romans never received any tribute from their Briton possessions. Life continued on the isles as it had before. [32: Commentarii de Bellum Gallico. Trans W.A. MacDevitt. New York: Everyman's Library, 1915.5:9.] [33: Commentarii de Bellum Gallico. Trans W.A. MacDevitt. New York: Everyman's Library, 1915.5:12] [34: Athena Review. "Caesar's Campaigns in Gaul (58-50 BC)." Athena Review, 1:4 (2007).]

53 BC

The Gauls had become emboldened by the absence of Caesar over the previous summer and decided that they would rise up again against the yoke of their masters. Over the previous winter there had been a scarcity of stores, so Caesar had been forced to station his troops at different ports. The Gauls decided to take advantage of the fact that the Roman forces were widely split up. Unfortunately the results were the same as they had always been. Caesar quickly marched his other forces to the aid of the ones which were being attacked and defeated the attacking Gauls[footnoteRef:35] [35: Commentarii de Bellum Gallico. Trans W.A. MacDevitt. New York: Everyman's Library, 1915.5:26]

52 BC

The following winter was peaceful for the Romans, after they had defeated the insurrection and conspiracy of the previous summer, but the Gauls were no quieted. The conspiracy continued as the Gauls decided to try and recover their territory again under a greater general Vercingetorix. Caesar considered him to be the greatest of the generals that had been arrayed against him[footnoteRef:36]. He was of noble birth and gave the romans the most difficult fight that they had ever faced[footnoteRef:37]. The gauls kept making headway, but Caesar was a the more clever general in the field, and outmaneuvered Vercingetorix every time. Finally the Gauls came up with a strategy. Much like Sherman's march to the sea in the American Civil War, they burned everything that could be used as supplies by the Romans[footnoteRef:38]. But, the Gauls decided to save their principal town of the region, Bituriges, from destruction as a safety for the Gallic soldiers expressly against the wishes of Vercengetorix. Caesar found out that the city was the only possible means of food in the region and set siege to it. In the end, every citizen in the town was put to the sword. Vercingetorix had not holed himself in the town and he escaped to Alesia with an army of 70,000 where he waited further troops from Gaul[footnoteRef:39]. Before relief troops could arrive though Caesar arrived from the sacking of Bituriges with and lay siege to Alesia. The Gauls then sent approximately 300,000 soldiers to surround Caesar[footnoteRef:40]. The army of Caesar prevailed against the vast Gallic army outside of the city walls, and then he compelled Alesia to surrender[footnoteRef:41]. This ended the seventh year of the Gallic campaign and Caesar again led his troop into winter quarters. [36: Commentarii de Bellum Gallico. Trans W.A. MacDevitt. New York: Everyman's Library, 1915.7:4] [37: D'Ooge, Benjamin Leonard & Frederick Carlos Eastman. Caesar in Gaul. New York: Columbia University Press, 1918] [38: Stephen Ridd. Julius Caesar in Gaul and Britain. New York:… [END OF PREVIEW]

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