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Appian's History of  Rome: The Gallic Wars


Legionary standard (of XXX Ulpia Traiana reenactment group). Photo Jona Lendering.
Appian of Alexandria (c.95-c.165) is the author of a Roman History and one of the most underestimated of all Greek historians. Although only his books on the Roman Civil Wars survive in their entirety, large parts of other books have also come down to us. His account of the wars against the Gauls, which we know from Byzantine excerpts, is known from an excerpt and a couple of fragments (below).

Because the text has to be reconstructed from several medieval manuscripts, not all editions of Appian's History of the Gallic Wars are numbered in the same way; here, the separate units are counted strictly chronologically. The translation was made by Horace White; additions in green by Jona Lendering.


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Fragments from Appian's Gallic Wars

[From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies: §10] [121 BCE] The chiefs of the Salyi, a nation vanquished by the Romans, took refuge with the Allobroges. When the Romans asked for their surrender and it was refused, they made war on the Allobroges, under the leadership of Gnaeus Domitius [Ahenobarbus]. When he was passing through the territory of the Salyi, an ambassador of Bituitus, king of the Allobroges, met him, arrayed magnificently and followed by attendants likewise arrayed, and also by dogs; for the barbarians of this region use dogs also as body-guards. A musician was in the train who sang in barbarous fashion the praises of King Bituitus, and then of the Allobroges, and then of the ambassador himself, celebrating his birth, his bravery, and his wealth; for which reason chiefly their illustrious ambassadors usually take such persons along with them. But this one, although he begged pardon for the chiefs of the Salyi, accomplished nothing.

[From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies: §11] [113 BCE] A numerous band of the Teutones bent on plunder invaded the territory of Noricum. The Roman consul, [Gnaeus] Papirius Carbo, fearing lest they should make an incursion into Italy, occupied the Alps at a place where the pass is narrowest. As they made no attempt in this direction he attacked them, complaining that they had invaded the people of Noricum, who were foreign friends of the Romans. It was the practice of the Romans to make foreign friends of any people for whom they wanted to intervene on the score of friendship, without being obliged to defend them as allies.

As Carbo was approaching, the Teutones sent word to him that they had not known anything about this relationship between Rome and Noricum, and that for the future they would keep hands off. He praised the ambassadors, and gave them guides for their homeward journey, but privately charged the guides to take them by a longer route. He himself then marched by a shorter one and fell unexpectedly upon the Teutones, though they were still desisting from hostilities, but he suffered severely for his perfidy, and lost a large part of his army. He would probably have perished with his whole force had not darkness and a tremendous thunderstorm fallen upon them while the fight was in progress, separating the combatants and putting an end to the battle by sheer terror from heaven. Even as it was, the Romans fled in small bands through the woods and came together with difficulty three days later. The Teutones passed into Gaul.

[From the Suda dictionary: §12][101 BCE] He [Marius] ordered them to leave the bodies of the Cimbri intact till daylight because he believed they were adorned with gold.


Bust of Julius Caesar. Musei Vaticani, Roma (Italy). Photo Jona Lendering.
Julius Caesar
(Musei Vaticani, Rome)

[From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies: §13] [58 BCE] Two nations, the Tigurini and the Helvetii, made an incursion into the Roman province of Gaul. When [Gaius Julius] Caesar heard of this movement he built a wall along the river Rhône about a 25 kilometers in length to intercept them. When they sent ambassadors to him to endeavor to make a treaty, he ordered them to give him hostages and money. They replied that they were accustomed to receive these things, not to give them. As he wished to prevent them from forming a junction he sent [Titus] Labienus against the Tigurini, who were the weaker, while he marched against the Helvetii, taking with him about 20,000 Gallic mountaineers. The work was easy to Labienus, who fell upon the Tigurini unawares on the river bank, defeated them, and scattered the greater part of them in disorderly flight.

[From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies: §14] [59 BCE] Ariovistus, the king of the Germans beyond the Rhine, had crossed to this side before Caesar's arrival and made war against the Aedui, who were friends of the Romans. But when the Romans commanded him to desist, he had obeyed and moved away from Aedui and had desired to be accounted a friend of the Roman people also, and this was granted, Caesar being consul and voting for it.




[From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies: §15] [58 BCE] Ariovistus, the king of the Germans, who had been voted a friend of the Roman people, came to Caesar to have a colloquy. After they had separated he wished to have another. Caesar refused it, but sent some of the leading men of the Gauls to meet him. Ariovistus cast them in chains, wherefore Caesar threatened him and made war on him, but fear fell upon the army on account of the military reputation of the Germans.

[From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies: §16] [55 BCE] It is believed that the Usipetes and the Tencteri, German tribes, with 800 of their own horse, put to flight about 5000 of Caesar's horse. When they sent ambassadors to Caesar he held them as prisoners and made an attack on them, and took them so completely by surprise that 400,000 of them were cut to pieces. One writer says that [Marcus Porcius] Cato in the Roman Senate proposed that Caesar should be surrendered to the barbarians for this deed of blood perpetrated while negotiations were pending. But Caesar in his own diary says that when the Usipetes and Tencteri were ordered to go back forthwith to their former homes, they replied that they had sent ambassadors to the Suebians, who had driven them away, and that they were waiting for their answer; that while these negotiations were pending, they set upon his men with 800 of their horse, and by the suddenness of the attack put to flight his 5000; and that when they sent another embassy to explain this violation of good faith he suspected a similar deception, and made his attack before giving his answer.

[From the Suda dictionary: §17] [55 BCE] Straightway they stirred up the Britons to violate the oath, complaining that while a treaty with them was in force the camp was still among them.

[From the Suda dictionary: §18] [54 BCE] Caesar turned back, apprehending an attack [by Ambiorix] on [the soldiers of Quintus Tullius] Cicero.

[From the Vatican manuscript of Cardinal Mai: §19] [52 BCE] Britores seduced the Aedui from their Roman allegiance. When Caesar reproached them for this, they said that an ancient alliance had the precedence.






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