HomeAncient HistoryAncient RomeCaesar's wars in Gaul 58 – 56 BC

Caesar’s wars in Gaul 58 – 56 BC



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Political relations between Gaius Julius Caesar and Publius Clodius in Rome

In 62 BC, during period of holiday in honour of the Good goddess, which were only allowed to women, Publius Clodius disguised as a woman and sneak in to the house of the Gaius Julius Caesar. On that way Clodius planned to meet with Caesar’s wife Pompeia. When Caesar heard that information he decided to drop charges for desecration of sanctities and he just divorced. Clodius, meanwhile, came into conflict with Marcus Tullius Cicero. In the 59 BC in Rome were elected Consuls, supporters of the triumvir’s. In same time Clodius become national tribune. Publius Clodius Pulcher was patrician and he could not be elected for tribune, so Clodius decided to become plebeian. After he accepted duties as a tribune, Clodius decided to take all measures in order to strengthen Caesar’s influence in Rome among the poor plebs. At the beginning of the 58 BC Clodius introduced four Laws. Clodius was supported by slaves and Roman citizens.

Clodius introduced a legal project according to which every person will be exiled if without a court decided to destroy citizens of Rome. The Law was directed against Cicero, who was a rival of triumvirate. Senate’s decision about execution of Catilina’s supporters was recognized as illegal action. Cicero vainly begged Gnaeus Pompey to leave him in Rome, but he was in vain and he had to leave Rome. Cicero house on the Palatine was destroyed, and most part of Cicero confiscated property belonged to the Clodius. After Cicero banished from Rome, Caesar had no more political enemies.

Caesar’s wars in Gaul (Gallia) 58 – 56 BC

In the early 50’s of I century BC, the Romans owned the whole Cisalpina Gaul and they were established garnisons in the coastal area of Transalpine Gaul. One part of the Transalpine Gaul remained free and included larger part of today’s France and it spread all the way to the river Rhine in the east. That part of land Romans called Gallia Comata unlike Romanized Gaul called dressed in a toga – Gallia Togata. The main population of free Gaul was consisted of Celtic tribes. In the south the population was mixed with the Iberians and Ligurans, in northern were Germanic tribes.
There were three main groups of the Celtic tribes: Belgae at the north, the Celts (the Romans called them Gauls) spread from the Seine to the Garonne while Aquitani spread from the Garonne to the Pyrenees. Celtic (Gaul) tribes were located at different stages of development. Some tribes still preserved the original line of community, while other tribes were in the stage of destroying tribal system and in the formation of the state. The head of the tribe was the tribal aristocracy. Leaders (principes) were distinguished from others through influence and wealth. Great influence had priest caste druids. Druids were closed group of people that took care of religious issues, which kept ancient traditions, predicted future and interpreted customary rights. They kept its rituals and its knowledge in great secrecy. Only druids used letter composed on the basis of Greece’s graphics, but also this letter was significantly different from the alphabet. Cult meetings were held in the dense forests and they practiced human sacrifice. Druids were exempt from all duties and military service. They run judiciary, medicine, and they educated young noblemen.

The masses of the Celts were located according to Caesar’s words in full dependence on the aristocracy. Constant wars were obstacle for unification of Gaul and creation of a one single state. Special importance for the further history of Gaul had a migration of Helvetii tribes. At the end of the 70s of I century BC, they left the territory between the Main and the upper course of the Rhine and they settled in the western part of today’s Switzerland. As a result of that, Germanic Suevi (Suebi) immigrated to the area of the upper Rhine.

In the Gaulus, Aedui and Sequani were mutual rivals. Both of them had supporters and rivals in almost every group of tribes. Sequani asked for help from the Suevi leader– Ariovistus and after a long fight they managed to defeat Aedui around 60 BC. Aedui were considered as friends of Roman people and they asked for the support of the Senate. Ariovistus managed with the help of the Senate to stop military operations and he was even recognized as a friend of the Roman people. New migration of Helvetians to the west represented danger to the Romans.

In March 58 BC, Caesar came to the province Gallia. He took all necessary measures in order to protect Roman land from Helvetians. Helvetians decided to go through the Sequani and Aedui land. Since Caesar found out about their plans, and decided to cross borders of his province and to expel them with the help from Aedui.

Helvetians suffered a defeat in the battle of Bibracte in June 58 BC, and despite their superiority in numbers Helvetians were forced to make peace and alliance with the Roman Republic.

Namely, Caesar after that saw himself as a defender of Aedui from Ariovistus. Again, despite superiority in numbers of Suevi and Ariovistus army including his skillful tactics, Caesar managed to defeat them at today’s Strasbourg. This victory had a significant importance, since it prevented an intrusion of new Germanic masses from the east. This victory strengthened the influence of Caesar in central Gaul and it was a precondition for the further conquering. At the end of 58 BC and 57 BC, Caesar was in Gaul Cisalpina as a Proconsul (governor).

The primary historical sources for study of the Gallic Wars are Caesars 7 books "Commentaries on the Gallic War"
The primary historical sources for study of the Gallic Wars are Caesars 7 books “Commentaries on the Gallic War”

In 57 BC, began struggle with Belgic tribes whose forces were much greater than Caesar’s, but they quickly fell apart. However, an attack one of the tribes (Nervii) ended nearly with a defeat of the Roman army. Caesar was saved thanks to his ability to quickly regroup under the most difficult circumstances.

All Belgic tribes were defeated by Caesar. Around 53.000 people from the tribe Aduatuci (from east Belgium) were sold as slaves, under excuse that someone has to be punished for the attack on Romans.

Caesar after that came in province Illyria, and his Legates continued with the conquering of Gaul. Publius Licinius Crassus who was son of Marcus Licinius Crassus managed to conquer the tribes of Aquitaine. North-western Galic tribes build a strong fleet with the helpof the British but Caesar conquered them at the battle of the Loire 56 BC. In 56 BC, Gaul was defeated, and Romans had huge war loot and hundreds of thousands of slaves. Caesar’s successes evoke enthusiasm in Rome. Senate made a decision that Rome has period of holidays, which lasted for 15 days.