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M. Porcius Cato

The Gallic Wars

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Pompey was resting on his laurels,
I think only because there was a Crassus and Caesar around to thwart him...

Even when they were all in league together, Pompey's best days were behind him. He was an old lion that could only be roused when attacked.

 

Perhaps, perhaps...but with a history of Sulla and then Caesar behind them, and the power of an Empire to use, it would only be a matter of time before the next man stood up, launched a war and marched back.

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An interesting topic for a thread not on the Gallic Wars: Given the history of Sulla, what could possibly have prevented another march on Rome without (at least also) subjecting Caesar to the law?

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So all are in relative agreement that the war in Gaul or Gallic wars may well have been legal. The incursions across the Rhine and the channel may well have been legal also, depending on what camp one is in.

 

I have read that Caesar went to Britain specificly to secure hostages from tribes who had given aid to Gallic tribes in their fight against him. He crossed the Rhine to aid Gallic tribes allied to Rome who were under attack.

 

If one accepts Caesars version - these incursions were legal as they were important to the security of his governorship. If one does not accept his version, they were not legal, merely opportunistic.

 

As the senate awarded him the Governorship and extended it, voted him thanksgivings for victories etc etc, it seems to me that there was some personal beef or jealousy that lead certain senators to begin to doubt Caesars account of events.

 

So as you said Cato, the question remains - Was it Justified ? I take P Clodius view on this, and as far as we agree that it was very possibly Legal - then it was just.

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So as you said Cato, the question remains - Was it Justified ?

 

I can't see why not. If Caesar had not moved to stop the migration of the Helvetii, Rome would possibly have lost allies in Gaul, upset relations with the other gallic allies setting back diplomatic efforts by a long way and allow a large and potentially hostile tribe to settle on Italia's doorstep.

With his continuation into Gaul, again the only argument i can reiterate is allegiance and obligation: Rome was obliged to assist tribes with "Friend and Ally" status; Caesar upheld this, and gained further allies in Gaul. I admit that the invasions of Britannia and the crossings of the Rhine may have hovered around illegality, but i maintain that the ends justified the means; he prepared Britannia for Romanization and inclusion in the Roman world and warned the Germans of Rome's might (although the Germans would come back to haunt Rome :)). Besides, Caesar gained a useful weapon against Vercingetorix by hiring cavalry from a Germanic tribe called the Ubii (I think) which were formidable weapons.

By the end of the wars; Gaul had been secured and ensured as a future roman province, a source of wealth, soldiers and loyalty and Rome's power had again been confirmed. The Gauls themselves (the allies and any remaining insurgents) were assured protection; to quote McCullough; "A light Roman hand on the bridle, as opposed to a heavy German one" and would become faithful citizens of the soon to be born Roman Empire.

As far as i can see, the only sufferers from this are those who lost family, land or wealth from the wars, or those couch Generals (i.e. Pompey, cato etc.) in Rome who were shown what a great General Caesar was.

My conclusion is that the Gallic Wars, although hinting at illegality in some areas, were justified, and Caesar's conquests would help to shape the Roman and later world.

 

Right, that's my two bob's worth...time to take some criticism :D

Edited by Tobias

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So as you said Cato, the question remains - Was it Justified ?

I can't see why not. If Caesar had not moved to stop the migration of the Helvetii, Rome would possibly have lost allies in Gaul, upset relations with the other gallic allies setting back diplomatic efforts by a long way and allow a large and potentially hostile tribe to settle on Italia's doorstep.

With his continuation into Gaul, again the only argument i can reiterate is allegiance and obligation: Rome was obliged to assist tribes with "Friend and Ally" status; Caesar upheld this, and gained further allies in Gaul.

 

We are in agreement that it was important to come to the aid of an ally. However, Caesar wasn't very good at this, which is how the migration of the Helvetii turned into a vast war with all Gaul united against Rome.

 

First, he initially failed to come to the aid of the Aedui--a very old and dear Friend of Rome--when it was under attack by Ariovistus and the Suebi; rather, he had the Senate declare Ariovistus a Friend. Not good foreign policy.

 

Next, after Ariovistus was declared Friend, Caesar attacked Ariovistus and routed him from the lands of the Aedui. The reason? Ariovistus insulted him by reminding him that there were noble Romans who would be happy to see Caesar vanquished. Letting personal feelings dictate Roman foreign relations? Not good foreign policy.

 

Then, after Caesar ejected Ariovistus from the lands of the Aedui, Caesar took control of the nation rather than returning to southern Gaul, where he was governor. This was of questionable legality--the threat was vanquished, and there was no justification for the military occupation. These things tend to go badly (ask East Germany, for example). With a bunch of fearsome Romans standing around with their boots on the necks of their former friends, you can guess what happened next--the neighbors to the North got organized to defend themselves from an ambitious plutocrat with no sense of honor, and ultimately all Gaul was united to eject Caesar.

 

So, was Caesar just out to help a Friend? Not hardly. By his own count, Caesar killed a million Gallic warriors, women, and children, and took another million or so as slaves. He destroyed the economic base of an iron age people who had been trading partners and friends of Rome. Worst, Caesar taught the Gauls that with Friends like Romans, you don't need enemies. This is the kind of behavior that (much, much later) turned otherwise peaceul friends (such as the Goths) into marauding, raping, baby-splitting, Rome-destroying enemies. Again--NOT GOOD FOREIGN POLICY.

 

I admit that the invasions of Britannia and the crossings of the Rhine may have hovered around illegality, but i maintain that the ends justified the means; he prepared Britannia for Romanization and inclusion in the Roman world and warned the Germans of Rome's might (although the Germans would come back to haunt Rome :)).

 

The argument that Caesar invaded Britain and Germania as a show of force to prevent future incursions across the French Channel (just kidding) and the Rhine doesn't change the illegality of the actions, and I really don't see any military justification. All Caesar did was give the Celts and Germans notice that it was time to prepare for war with Rome. Germania did, and the rest is history.

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The statements regarding Ariovistus 'friendship' with Rome are a bit misleading. He was offered the favor of Rome during Caesar's consulship in 59 BC, in order to prevent further Suebi incursions into Gallic territory. At the time, the Romans were ill prepared to deal with the threat directly. Provided he desisted from further conflict on the Gallic side of the Rhine, he would maintain Roman favor. This arrangement fell apart when Ariovistus viewed Gallic territory outside of Caesar's sphere of control as open territory ripe for conquest. Caesar acted on behalf of his Gallic allies (and of course his own ambition) to prevent this. Negotiations to prevent further incursion fell apart and when Caesar moved against Ariovistus in a sign of strength he was actually ambushed.

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I think you are dramatizing the Goths. the West-Goths sacked Rome, but left it intact and not harming it and its citizens at all! And dont forget that the Romans butchered over 30.000 Goths, because some authorities got paranoid. But the Roman Gothic relation is a different chapter, and cant be linked with the Gallic wars.

 

You often reffer to the Celts and Gauls being faithful friends of Rome, but i disagree. The Celts were a constant threat to hispania and the newly conquered Transalpine Gaul province. The Helvetii issue, was also way before the Gallic Wars. And dont forget about Cisalpine Gaul, which was mostly conquered before the second Punic War. And in the Second Punic War and in the Cimbrian War the gauls always joined the opposition, against Rome. So the overall relation between Romans and Celtic Gauls wasnt as rosie as you put it. And if you already mention Caesars positive attitude towards Ariovistus, than you should also mention that he saw Ariovistus as a Friend because Ariovistus was killing off the Celts in modern day Belgium and Westphalia Germany. Later caesar realized the possibility of capturing Gallia, but needed to defeat the Suebi first, and he did.

 

Well, its debateble wether some actions in the Gallic Wars, were illegal. But lets not forget that if Caesar had not conquered Britain and Gallia, than europe would be houndreds of years behind, in every aspect.And the British and Fench empires would have never taken place.

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Lets keep things in perspective, the timespan between Caesar's war in Gaul and the eventual sacking of Rome by the Goths is half a millenia.

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I am currently reading Dodge's Caesar. So far (I'm upto where Caesar relieves Q. Cicero from beseigement) he is somewhat critical of Caesar's tactical decisions.

Edited by P.Clodius

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Were the Gallic Wars justified?

 

Well it all depends who you are...

 

For Caesar, an unqualified yes. He gained a phenomonal amount of prestige and an army of seasoned veterans. Had he not prolongued the wars in Gaul, Cato was waiting 'patient in rancour' to prosecute him for various illegalities but that threat was posponed also.

 

For Caesar's officers, an unqualified yes. They added to their own prestige and fortunes.

 

For Caesar's legions, a qualified yes (for the survivors, the dead probably didn't think it so justified). They were enriched but as veterans were subject to service in the civil wars that followed.

 

For the Gallic allies of Rome, a qualified yes. They might have become subject to Rome rather than simple 'allies' but they undoubtedly benefited at the expense of their brethern who were anti-Roman.

 

For the Roman people, also a qualified yes. Huge numbers of slaves became available and trade with the Gallic tribes made more secure. The down side of course being the civil war caused by Caesar's ambition, Pompey's stupidity and Cato's intransigence. Had Caesar not launched his technically illegal attacks then the civil war would not have happened (of course there almost certainly would have been a civil war eventually but not between Pompey and the laughably named 'boni' and Caesar).

 

In the eyes of Caesar's political opponents, the war was not justified. Not of course for any special love of the Gauls or scrupulous regard for the law. But because they saw there chance to pursue their political vendetta by portraying the war as unjustified and illegal. Hypocrisy, though hardly unique to Roman politicians, was nonethless endemic in the senatorial class. No exceptions.

 

For the Gallic and Germanic tribesmen (and a few Britons), in the short term, a disaster of monumental proportions. In the long run though, especially for Gaul, the Roman conquest benefited future generations. That would scarcely justify it in the eyes of Vercingetorix or his men.

 

In our eyes? Notjustified. Whatever the of 'protecting allies', the fact is that Caesar prolongued the war for his own political ends. It was not a 'just' war in the modern sense. Much like the third war against Carthage, it was waged for the benefit of certain factions within certain social classes of the Roman people.

Edited by Furius Venator

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Ive seen someone with the quote regarding Caesar as " not feeling safe , save only with his legions" ( I paraphrase-Cicero I think), in some ways it would seem that once Caesar was in the field the Gallic wars were already decided ,as an enterprise, in his mind. The difficulty as FV alludes to is that the moral high ground probably has no occupants in our contemporary way of thought, Caesar was at least Roman in his prosecution and thoroughness ( if you are a critic): would his opponents have cared about Gaul? One imagines FV is correct here-Gaul is a canvas for (ambitious) Romans to work out their political designs , not a moral paradox and the army is the implement expressing the Romaness of their actions.

For Gaul, Germania and Brittania the sooner you get into the "executive class" of Roman influence the better.

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In our eyes? Notjustified.

 

Allow me just to say that perhaps in your eyes it wasn't justified. Personally I think the lasting enmity between Celt and Roman was more than justification enough, regardless of any existing level of threat at that moment in time.

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