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M. Porcius Cato

The Gallic Wars

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But what about the other side of the story? According to Appian, Caesar subjugated 400 tribes, 800 towns, enslaved one million people, and killed at least as many. Was this war justified? Did it even help Rome? Or were the Gallic Wars--like the Commentaries--no more than stepping stones on the path to Caesar's dictatorship?

 

Whether it was justified to the extent of the total conquest is an open question to me. I'm not convinced of the casaulty figures as ancient sources are notoriously exagerrated, be that as it may they were probably quite heavy.

 

In the background of the Roman mind the Gauls sacking of Rome was never forgotten. There are countless clashes between the two throughout early Roman history and even with the pacification of those tribes in northern Italy and southern Gaul it's probably no stretch to be aware of the power of the Gallic boogeyman on the Roman mind.

 

As I've stated before there were rational motives at the start to become involved in the conflict, the movement of the Helvetii and the attacks by the Sequani and Suebi, all on the Roman allied tribe of the Haedui; defense of allies being a point of Roman pride. And more importantly, the seizure of large parts of Gaul prevented the German tribes from migrating into the region as the Suebi were beginning to do. Whatever the Roman view of Gauls, they understood the Germans were generally a superior foe and this denial of territory to them is in hindsight a very good move.

 

And I'd repeat that once in control of that territory moves by the Belgian tribes agitating against them and uprisings by the Gauls would have been addressed by any sound commander.

 

At the early stage at least involvement would've been justified by any governer--imagine a young Pompey in that position reacting just as aggressively--and it was also sanctioned at that point by the Senate. Even Cicero, always weary of JC, gave a speech in his praise that included the following: "...For as long as our empire has existed, everyone who reflected wisely on our commonwealth has believed that no country posed such a danger to our rule as Gaul...Now at last we can say that our rule extends over all these territories".

 

From a strategic standpoint the conquest of Gaul was probably justified as a sound move that certainly helped Rome in pacifying a longtime enemy and denying territory to German tribes. In the end I think the answer is a justified intervention at the beginning coupled with an opportunistic and aggressive general in JC stretching it into a larger war of conquest. These were a series of campaigns and where the justification ends and opportunistic conquest used as a stepping-stone starts is a bit of a tangled web.

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Justified!! How can WE judge if it was justified or not? During the early, mid and late republic when was Rome not at war with someone or other? You pick on Caesar, label him a self serving glory seeker, etc... He was a product of the system and was doing what many others had done before him. What were the consequences of his Galic campaign? When Rome and the western empire fell into ruin, France was still a gleaming jewel of romano/galic civilization. Most students of the western world would acknowlege Caesar as the man who transformed Rome from a meditarenean centric, to a euro centric empire. Hail Caesar. ALL HAIL CAESAR!!!

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You really cannot compair Spain or North Africa with Gaul. Scipio left Spain when he accomplished his goal of removing the Carthaginians and the whole penninsula wasn't 'pacified' until Augustus.

 

Just for the record, I wasn't comparing the legitimacy or warfare, only making a point...

 

I understand exactly where you are coming from P-P B)

 

I could have worded my remark more clearly as it was meant to be a general reply. My main point was that one can see how the goals of certain major campaigns changed over time indicating how their moralities were changing.

 

So then the question is, who's (or what time period's) moralities do you judge it by? I judge them by what I consider to be the high point of their morality, 4th-3rd Centuries BC :rolleyes:

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The wars were easily profitable to the Republic then Empire. In terms of slaves, loot, recruitable soldiers, better defensive border (in the long run) and the elimination of a warlike neighbor, it's a winning situation. If it somehow was a downfall for the Romans, it is pretty remarkable it took 500 yeas to make that happen.

 

I think real mistakes make their effect known within a few years. Perhaps the real mistake here was not conquering the Germans and reducing that defensive border even further.

Edited by Favonius Cornelius

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First of all, the Gallic Wars were a total success for the Romans. And we should all rid ourselfes from the false beliefs, of the big bad bloodthirsty roman soldiers outnumbering the celts 3 to 1 and just killing for fun.

 

The fact of the matter is that the Romans were outnumbered 3 to 1 by the Celts, and that only the Brilliance of a Julius Caesar, and the pride and fighting spirit of never giving up (alesia) gave these roman soldiers victory. I think we should all know about Alesia, to fully know Julius Caesar and the Mighty Roman Army.

 

Lets also not forget that Julius Caesar wanted to be Ruler of Rome, and tried to impress everybody with his Total Victories.

He almost whiped out the celtic tribe of Helvetians.

The Germanics under Ariovist, ran over the Celts in North gaul, and the Celts were massacred and slaved by the Germanics, Caesar than knew how weak the Celts really were and started the immediant Battle against the Germanics, to drive them out of Gaul so he could Invade it all later. He completely defeated The germanics under Ariovist and drove them back over the Rhein. He than started the Gallic wars, which ended with over 1 million celts being killed and a further million celts being slaved. The Romans had no respect towards the Celts, also because the Celts fought their battles naked and that was seen as very primative by the Romans. The Germanics, were the only ones Caesar respected, because his uncle Marius was the Roman warlord who eventually defeated Cimbris and Teutones in 2 battles.

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The security of Rome amidst its possessions--whether vast or small--required Rome to extend the foreign policy it used with her Italian allies, who were largely loyal to Rome.

 

During the 100 years before Caesar's adventures, this was the policy in southern Gaul. There the tribes were not only no threat to Rome, they provided Rome with excellent trade and were staunch allies of the Republic. Rome's allies in Massilia had been securing military assistance from Rome in repelling Ligurian raiders from 154 to 125, when the campaigns of Flaccus and Calvinus culminated in the defeat of the Saluvii, the Ligurians, and the Vocontii and the establishment of a castellum near Aquae Sextiae for the control of the sea.

 

While not all Gallic tribes welcomed this Roman presence, after the nobles Ahenobarbus and Fabius Maximus defeated the attacking Allobroges and Arvernri in 121 with the assistance of the Aedui, Rome found herself blessed with two independent Gallic allies, a secure road to the Pyrenees and Spain for Rome's legions, commerical routes from Italy through southern Gaul to Spain, a terminus for tin from Britain, and land for the Roman colony of Narbo. Thus, working together, the Gracchans and nobles helped one friend of Rome, made a new ally, secured a new province, and brought wealth to Rome.

 

These events are important to note because many of the blessings claimed here to have been accrued by Caesar's adventures were already in hand before Caesar was even born. These boons, moreover, did not require the breaking of the sacred ius fetiale, which forbade unprovoked wars of territorial conquest, but simply involved the extension of the policies of the Senate since the founding of the Republic.

 

In the subsequent years, with the rapacious publicani swept into Gaul by the wake of Marius, the burdens of taxation began to overwhelm Rome's Gallic friends, so much so that Cicero complained "Not a single sesterce in Gaul ever changes hands without being entered in the account-books of Roman citizens." Roman governors such as Murena and his henchman Clodius (a friend of the poor--what a laugh!) were completely unresponsive to the plight of the overburdened Allobroges, who were driven in their misery to make envoys to the equally rapacious Catiline.

 

Thus, Caesar's proper charge in Gaul should have been one of diplomacy and conciliation. The people of Gaul were no longer the utter savages that had terrorized Rome centuries before, but were often advanced in the use of agriculture, stock-breeding, mining, metallurgy, commerce, coinage, and were becoming increasingly literate (the Druids themselves had adopted a Greek script). The influence of Massilia northward was large, and the past progress in Italicizing Gaul could have been furthered had Caesar chosen to have pacified Gaul by using his mythical clemency and compassion. Unfortunately, the clemency and compassion of Julius Caesar were as mythical as his self-proclaimed descent from Venus.

 

To be continued...

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I dont thinks so, the Celts were always enemies to Rome, and as for the trade, well, i dont know anything that romans wanted to trade with the celts. Celts were mercanaries of Hannibal, Celts helped the oscans in their uprising, celts lived in northern Italy (cisalpine gaul). The Celts living in modern day Val D'Aosta (north west italy) all of them were slaughtered and deported. This Region was than settled by Roman Veterans. Or the Insubrii and many other celts in northern italy who got erased. Celts and Romans never had a good relation, the Romans were far too strong, and erased more than half of their race(gauls, helvetians, insubrii, etc etc.), the Germanics (Saxons-Franks-Jutes-Cimbrii-Goths etc) did the rest.

Basically driving them back to modern day UK and Ireland. Where the Celts were attacked by Vikings numerous times.

 

If you ask me, the Celts were just waiting to be whiped out, the Romans did half the Germanics did the other half. And if they didnt do it, Norsemen and Huns would have done it.(actually, they partially did)

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There is nothing "reflexive" about supporting conquest because it consolidates a long border and shifts the boundaries upon a much more defensible terrain. That is a response with a sound reasoning.

Yes, you're right--if your support of conquest is predicated on some grounds (such as drawing more defensive borders), your support isn't reflexive. Earlier you'd written that conquest is usually beneficial, and I misunderstood you to be reflexively pro-conquest. Mea culpa. My view is that conquest is usually the downfall of great nations--from the demise of Athens to the tragic fall of the British Empire but that can be debated in another thread.

 

Please do me justice in your replies. Explain how a consolidated border and the resources from Gaul and Britannia would not be useful to an Empire. Also propose how Rome might have made nice with the Germans, who had already destroyed several legions on a rampage through Narbonensis and Spain that was narrowly checked at Sextiae Aquae just as the Germans had turned their eye on Italia as their next plum.

 

A consolidated border and the resources from Gaul and Brittania would be very useful to the Republic, but the question is whether that border ought to extend to the Rhine and whether those resources ought to be acquired by trade or by sword.

 

On the quesiton of economic benefit, I think trade has longer-lasting benefits than plunder: slaves die and plundered booty is quickly spent, but the partnerships of trade and commerce can last several lifetimes. By bringing resources into Rome out of Gallic and Brittanic mines and luxury goods into Gaul and Brittania out of Roman workshops, both sides could enjoy secure livelihoods, and the light of Rome could be spread through the roads emanating northward of Narbonensis.

 

Prior to Caesar's escapades in Gaul, Rome already had a defensible route to Spain and a land port to British trade (mostly in tin) and trade to nearer Gaul (raw material coming in to Rome, luxury goods flowing out). While Narbonensis did come under attack from the Teutones, they were defeated by Marius, and he did not choose to subsequently expand Roman borders to the Rhine for a very good reason--it would have enveloped the Aedui, who were friends of Rome, and it would have stretched Roman forces thinly along a position difficult to defend.

 

Undoubtedly, the Germans were a threat to all of Rome's Gallic allies. The Aedui in particular faced a real threat when her rivals the Sequani made a fool's bargain with Ariovistus and his Suebi. After Ariovistus invaded and defeated the Aedui, a competent Roman general should have been immediately dispatched to unite the Gallic tribes against Ariovistus and the Germans: their attack on the Aedui would have been legitimate grounds for such a campaign. Instead, Caesar treacherously convinced the Senate to recognize Ariovistus as a Friend of Rome (!), and when Caesar arrived in Gaul, he only decided to attack Ariovistus after the latter had insulted Caesar by joking that Caesar's death would rejoice many Roman nobles. However, the Divine Caesar, darling of Venus, could scarcely get his legions to avenge his wounded ego--until they begrudingly followed the die-hard Caesar-loyalists of the Tenth, and were in sum almost defeated but for the initiative of P. Crassus, who sent the Germans scurrying across the Rhine. Thus, the immediate threat was gone and probably would have died with Ariovistus himself in the same year, but news of Caesar's treachery against her Gallic allies spread northward and destabilized the entire region.

 

To be continued...

Edited by M. Porcius Cato

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I dont thinks so, the Celts were always enemies to Rome, and as for the trade, well, i dont know anything that romans wanted to trade with the celts. Celts were mercanaries of Hannibal, Celts helped the oscans in their uprising, celts lived in northern Italy (cisalpine gaul). The Celts living in modern day Val D'Aosta (north west italy) all of them were slaughtered and deported. This Region was than settled by Roman Veterans. Or the Insubrii and many other celts in northern italy who got erased. Celts and Romans never had a good relation, the Romans were far too strong, and erased more than half of their race(gauls, helvetians, insubrii, etc etc.), the Germanics (Saxons-Franks-Jutes-Cimbrii-Goths etc) did the rest.

Basically driving them back to modern day UK and Ireland. Where the Celts were attacked by Vikings numerous times.

 

If you ask me, the Celts were just waiting to be whiped out, the Romans did half the Germanics did the other half. And if they didnt do it, Norsemen and Huns would have done it.(actually, they partially did)

By Jove you must be channeling some ancient Roman! It's this kind of attitude that made me feel OK about 'sensationalizing' the conquest of Gaul as an act of genocide. (OK, again, it really wasn't, but still...)

 

BTW, did anyone see this?

Julius Caesar and Ten Little Injuns

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By Jove you must be channeling some ancient Roman!

 

I think thats that's kind of the point. No one denies that in a similar situation in todays world, the protagonist would have a hard time justifying invasion.

But we are discussing what happened over 2000 years ago, in a different culture, with different values, responding to different threats and driven by different desires.

It's this kind of attitude that made me feel OK about 'sensationalizing' the conquest of Gaul as an act of genocide. (OK, again, it really wasn't, but still...)

Perhaps it's just me, but I don't tend to look at the Gallic wars as Genocide, nor the Punic Wars by any stretch of the imagination.

I just look at them with fascination.

 

Perhaps you should start some threads in the "Ethics and Morals of" folder, that'd be right up your alley. :D

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My view is that conquest is usually the downfall of great nations--from the demise of Athens to the tragic fall of the British Empire but that can be debated in another thread.

 

There is indeed usually a point when great empires expand beyond the point of practical ability for control, however the logic of the quoted statement is flawed. Without conquest there would've been no great nations to fall.

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There is indeed usually a point when great empires expand beyond the point of practical ability for control, however the logic of the quoted statement is flawed. Without conquest there would've been no great nations to fall.

 

Nations can achieve greatness without military conquest.

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Nations can achieve greatness without military conquest.

 

Indeed, but they cannot have grown large enough to have been remembered as 'falling' without having first conquered something. Regardless I concede the impending circular argument on this one.

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If another person starts applying terms like genocide (a word devised in 1944 before the Nuremberg trials) to describe Roman conquests, I'm going to have to start talking about man's discovery of fire and flint knapping in terms of his theorems and hypotheses.

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