Caesar’s Gallic Wars

A Study


Erin Klitzke

6TH Hour Latin III

Midterm Paper

          The year was 58 BC.  The place was Gaul.  Julius Caesar was about forty-two years old and already a proconsul of Illyricum, Cisalpine Gaul, and Narbonese Gaul, lands largely rugged and unknown.  Over the next eight years, he would conquer many Celtic tribes (called Gallic by the Romans) in the land of Gaul.[1]  Leaving a trail of blood and tears behind him, Caesar would bring the pax Romana to the Gallic wilderness.

          Caesar’s first battles would be with the Helvetii tribe, who lived in what is now Switzerland; and a Germanic tribe, the Suevi, who had conquered part of Gaul shortly before Caesar assumed the proconsulship. One of his original reasons for pursuing a military campaign in Gaul was the threat of an invasion of territories belonging to other tribes by of the Helvetii and Celtic agitation over the conquering of some of their lands.  In the year 58 BC Caesar conquered the Helvetii as well as the Suevi and their Germanic allied tribes.  After conquering and slaughtering most of  the Helvetii, the Roman legions met the Germans at Alsace, about fifteen miles from the Rhine River.  Ariovistus was the name of the commander of the German tribal forces.  All parties concerned fought hard and bravely, but ultimately the Germans that were beaten after the difficult campaign. [2]

          Even as Caesar continued to have great military success, defeating Nervii tribe in 57 BC and ending a revolt by the Veneti in 56 BC, his political career suffered.  In Rome, he was constantly under political siege by Pompey, Cicero, and others within the Senate and the Patrician class.  This, however, was of seemingly little concern to Caesar, who renegotiated his standing as a member of the triumvirate with Crassus and Pompey at Luca in 56 BC, and succeeded in extending his military command in Gaul by another five years.  In 55 BC, Caesar slaughtered two German tribes, the Usipetes and the Tencteri; this was the massacre that turned Cato, who demanded the Caesar over to the Germans so he could face justice, against him.  This was same year he crossed the Rhine River.  That year, he launched the first Roman expedition to Britain and its Isles.  The next year, he launched a second expedition to Britain.  Fifty-four BC was also a year of tragedy for Gaius Julius Caesar—his daughter, Julia, died.[3]

          One of Caesar’s greatest challenges would come when he faced the allied Celtic (Gallic) tribes of central Gaul, led by Vercingetorix, the leader of the tribe called the Averni.[4]  Vercingetorix was elected leader of his tribe in 52 BC and almost immediately began a campaign against Caesar and the Romans.[5]  Originally, it looked as if that the Romans might lose to the united Celts of central Gaul, but the tides turned at Alesia.  After a hard battle, Vercingetorix was captured.  This was the end of war and resistance in Gaul.  In 46 BC, at Caesar’s triumph in Rome, Vercingetorix was marched down the city streets, put on display for all of the Roman citizens to see, then executed for crimes against the Roman state.[6]

          Gaius Julius Caesar returned to Rome in 49 BC.  Civil war between himself and Pompey broke out after Crassus’ death in Syria.  Caesar eventually drove Pompey from Rome.  After several more military campaigns, the Senate named Caesar “dictator for life” in October of 45 BC.[7]  Some patrician families thought that Caesar was too much of a danger for the Roman Republic to handle, though, and they concocted a plot to assassinate Caesar.[8]  On the Ides of March—March 15—in 44 BC, some senators and Marcus Junius Brutus assassinated him at the Senate.[9]  Thus ended the career and life of Gaius Julius Caesar, one of the greatest military leaders of all time.  He was succeeded as imperator by his nephew, Octavian (later Augustus).[10]  The name Julius Caesar has never been forgotten, as his military and political triumphs can serve as inspiration to all.


[1] Bruns, Roger World Leaders Past & Present:  Julius Caesar   New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987

[2] Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia.  Computer software.  Danbury, CT:  Grolier Interactive Inc., 1998.  CD-ROM.

[3] Bruns, multiple pages

[4] Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia

[5] Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 99. Microsoft Corporation: 1998

[6] Ibid.

[7] Bruns, 109

[8] Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 99. Microsoft Corporation: 1998

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.