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Caesar in Gaul and Rome

War in Words

By Andrew M. Riggsby

Publication Year: 2006

Anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with Latin knows “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres” (“All Gaul is divided into three parts”), the opening line of De Bello Gallico, Julius Caesar's famous commentary on his campaigns against the Gauls in the 50s BC. But what did Caesar intend to accomplish by writing and publishing his commentaries, how did he go about it, and what potentially unforeseen consequences did his writing have? These are the questions that Andrew Riggsby pursues in this fresh interpretation of one of the masterworks of Latin prose. Riggsby uses contemporary literary methods to examine the historical impact that the commentaries had on the Roman reading public. In the first part of his study, Riggsby considers how Caesar defined Roman identity and its relationship to non-Roman others. He shows how Caesar opens up a possible vision of the political future in which the distinction between Roman and non-Roman becomes less important because of their joint submission to a Caesar-like leader. In the second part, Riggsby analyzes Caesar's political self-fashioning and the potential effects of his writing and publishing the Gallic War. He reveals how Caesar presents himself as a subtly new kind of Roman general who deserves credit not only for his own virtues, but for those of his soldiers as well. Riggsby uses case studies of key topics (spatial representation, ethnography, virtus and technology, genre, and the just war), augmented by more synthetic discussions that bring in evidence from other Roman and Greek texts, to offer a broad picture of the themes of national identity and Caesar's self-presentation.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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p. ix

Thank you to the several people who read the entire manuscript at some stage: Cynthia Damon, Erik Gunderson (who revealed himself as an excellent Press reader), Chris Kraus (twice!), Gwyn Morgan, Matt Roller, and the University of Texas Press’s other, extremely professional, anonymous reader...

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pp. 1-20

This book is a study of what is—in many senses—an already well-known historical event: Julius Caesar’s De Bello Gallico, or Gallic War.1 To think of texts as events is certainly in line with various historicist tendencies in the field of Classics in general, but it is also an approach that has come to be seen as particularly appropriate to this work.2 For one thing, the direct evidence for...

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1. Where Was the Gallic War?

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pp. 21-45

In 56 B.C., the orator Cicero gave a speech, On the Consular Provinces, that, among other things, favorably contrasted Caesar’s conduct of the Gallic War with the work of other provincial governors.1 In the speech, Cicero took a strong position on how to resolve the proximity of hostile Gauls on Rome’s northern frontier. His solution to the problem was not to...

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2. The “Other” and the Other “Other”

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pp. 47-71

We have small traces of Roman (or Roman-directed) views of Gauls (in this case, living in northern Italy) from about a century before Caesar: a few fragments from a historical work by Cato the Elder, and half of a section in the narrative history of the Greek Polybius.1 Though Williams has been able to trace and explain differences in the perspectives...

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3. Technology, Virtue, Victory

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pp. 73-105

De Bello Gallico is above all about war, and this chapter considers the central elements of military success.1 The Romans start with a marked advantage in the use of siegecraft, which decreases to nearly zero at the end. Yet it may not ultimately matter, because the Romans often use technology just to level the playing field and win in a pitched battle. Success...

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4. Alien Nation

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pp. 107-132

In examining the general question of ethnic identity in De Bello Gallico, I concentrate not on the representation of otherness (and its instrumental value for Caesar), but on how Roman identity comes to be defined in the presence of its various others and how that identity is entangled in other political questions. The speech of Critognatus during the siege of Alesia is...

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5. Formal Questions

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pp. 133-155

The genre of De Bello Gallico—called in antiquity the commentarius— has been the object of considerable scholarly scrutiny, albeit with unsatisfactory results.1 The foremost problem is that precious few classical commentarii (at least explicitly so described) have survived, and only one is roughly contemporaneous with De Bello Gallico. These are the Commentariolum petitionis...

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6. Empire and the “Just War”

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pp. 157-189

One of the most famous passages in the Aeneid is Anchises’ speech to Aeneas prophesying the destiny of their descendants. After a long description of notable individuals from Roman history comes a brief prescription in explicitly national terms. Other peoples will sculpt or give speeches or measure the stars, but “You, Roman, remember to govern the peoples under your empire (these will be your arts)...

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7. New and Improved, Sort Of

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pp. 191-214

Although Caesar fought far from Rome, we know that foreign wars can have a dramatic impact on domestic politics, all the more so for the dissemination of De Bello Gallico “back home.” Previous chapters have made topical suggestions about the political content of De Bello Gallico; this chapter continues that inquiry, but also considers the question of how documents like...

Appendix A: Wars against “Barbarians”

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pp. 215-216

Appendix B: Generals’ Inscriptions

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pp. 217-221


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pp. 223-251


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pp. 253-267


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pp. 269-270

E-ISBN-13: 9780292795792
E-ISBN-10: 0292795793
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292713031
Print-ISBN-10: 0292713037

Page Count: 286
Illustrations: 8 halftones, 1 map, 2 figures, 4 tables
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 608753433
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Caesar in Gaul and Rome

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Gaul -- History -- Gallic Wars, 58-51 B.C. -- Political aspects.
  • Caesar, Julius -- Military leadership.
  • Caesar, Julius -- Political activity.
  • Rome -- History, Military -- 265-30 B.C.
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