The conquest of Gaul

by Julius Caesar

Other authorsJane F. Gardner (Contributor), S. A. Handford (Translator)
Paper Book, 1982




London ; New York : Penguin Books, 1982.


The most powerful army of its time is faced with insurgent attacks and revolts on the borders of their lands. A celebrated general proceeds to crush it and in the process makes a name for himself as a military commander. This is the history of the Gallic Wars written by the Roman commander, Gaius Julius Caesar, in which he explains how and why he committed Rome to this battle. This latest edition of an ancient classic in edited and annotated to explain the politics and armies of all combatants.

User reviews

LibraryThing member gentoo23
This book is THE reference in terms of warfare tactics, leadership, strategy, logistics and politics.

Besides a "Did this, won that battle, subjugated that people" tone, Julius will also show you how the cultural aspect is a key factor in driving the logistics for successful warfare.

See how weat-based diet sedentary people clash against meat&milk-based diet nomadic people.

See how cultural clashes are crucial for engaging a battle. How military engineering does makes a difference in the turn out of a battle.

Check out state-of-the-art techniques for post-battle subjugation of a people (supporting minority political factions, exchanging hostages, divide and conquer, etc...)

See how climate and terrain are important bottlenecks to warfare.

Check out how military stategists during spring-summer time turn into political statesmen during the winter-autumn period.

Learn plenty about history of people, people migration and early european ethnology.

Feeww... You'll learn a lot from the greatest military strategist and reknowned statesman ever, Julius Caesar himself.
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LibraryThing member Meggo
A propaganda work par excellence, this book describes Caesar's conquest of Gaul, along with battles in Germany and Britain. Interesting in its own right, the book is also fascinating for the spin which Caesar puts on actions that are of marginal legality, for example, when he crossed the Rhine, ostensibly to quell a revolt, but probably more about capital - political and financial. Well worth reading with an eye to the political context.… (more)
LibraryThing member powervich
I'd like to repeat the usual compliment, because however much it is uttered, it retains truth: Caesar's writing, originally intended as source material for some other writer to make a history, is in itself an amazing display of clear and refreshing prose.
LibraryThing member Terpsichoreus
Nothing better represents Caesar's understanding of how to play upon the hopes and joys of man than the fact that he was able to turn a few hundred pages of troop movements into a thoughtful, engrossing narrative. We read not only Caesar's thoughts and intentions in the work, but also gain an invaluable view of Roman politics. In his own words, Caesar sets the scene for the events which soon overtook the empire and captured the imagination of western literature for thousands of years to come.

If the secret to enjoying Tolkien is skipping all the poetry and troop movements, I never thought this reflected poorly on poetry as an art, but I must admit I never realized that there was an art to the military memoir to reflect poorly on. I shall have to do my best to remedy this, though whether there are accounts which equal Caesar's in elegance and focus, I remain in doubt.
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LibraryThing member ocianain
Homocidal maniac pens self serving memoir of his war against his neighbors. Problem is, it's good writing and if you can read between the lines, very doable, you can gleam more than a little truth.
LibraryThing member RandyStafford
My reactions in 1991.

This was an interesting book to read, an account of an ancient conquest told by the conqueror.

This book confirmed first hand things I’ve read elsewhere. As Benjamin Isaac points out in The Limits of Empire, the Romans didn’t really have a clear grasp of geography as pointed out in Caesar’s description of Britain. I’ve heard elsewhere of Caesar’s emphasis on luck in war and several times he mentions fortune, both for and against him. And, in this account, one can see why five Julio-Claudian emperors were able to mooch off Caesar’s reputation.

Caesar was brilliant in strategy, knew when to reward and when to discipline his troops. One can see why the legions developed a fierce loyalty to his family. One can see his oratorical skills (however palely reflected in translation) and mercy (with few exceptions, he’s remarkably lenient with the conquered Gauls -- but there were also practical political and military reasons for that). This book shows some of the flavor of warfare of the time: the importance of deception on the battlefied (and occasionally outright treachery at the parlay), the difficulties of supply, the amazing engineering skill of the Roman legions, the compactness of the ancient battlefield.

I wonder if Caesar’s descriptions of Gallic customs are correct and likewise with the Druids. I suspect Caesar perhaps overstates the client-patron relationships (a characteristic Roman social construct) in Gallic society.

Unfortunately, the book leaves me ignorant on points of ancient warfare I’d like to know: how were hostages (and there are lots in this account) and prisoners kept?, how quiet was the ancient battlefield (we here of speeches given on the field constantly)?, how close did various units camp?, what does a siege terrace look like?, how were the men tactically deployed? It isn’t Caesar’s fault these aren’t mentioned. He’s writing for an audience that knows these background details firsthand and needs no explanation. It would be like a modern history or novel not bothering to explain all that is implied by the words “telephone” or “fax machine”.
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LibraryThing member GuilhermeSolari
You have got to give Caesar credit. Not only does he conquer half of Europe, but he is a darn good writer too! Much of the credit must go to the fine translation too I suppose.

Caesar's accounts on the war are great. With such coldness he reports that the bodies of the soldiers keep pilling up as to create whole mountais.

The siege of Alesia would be very good fiction, but as it is an all to real story, it becomes simply breathtaking.
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LibraryThing member RobertP
Not bad for a two-thousand year dead ambitious dictator.
LibraryThing member DanielSTJ
Absolutely fascinating. It is a momentous achievement that we have an "almost" first-hand account of the conquest of Gaul by Caesar.

Definitely not my last read of these types of memoirs.

Recommended for everyone.
LibraryThing member la2bkk
In many ways, one of the most important ancient works ever written. Caesar proves he is not only a great statesman and general, but also author. His work withstands the ages with its clarity and conciseness. One only has to read works written several hundred years ago to understand how writing styles have changed over time, yet Caesar's work still seems remarkably "modern." More importantly, The Gallic Wars is the primary source for Caesar's epic campaign and a fundamental source for much of our knowledge of the Gallic people.… (more)
LibraryThing member Kurt.Rocourt
It's not actually written by Caesar. It more of a third person account of the campaigns throughout Gaul. Although there a quotes credited to Caesar I was disappointed at not actually having his own written words appear the page. It was still good and very informative on how politics and war are so connected. It will serve as an example of early semi-biographical narration but should not be credited as written by Caesar himself.… (more)
LibraryThing member Lukerik
A shocking account of genocide by the man who committed it.
LibraryThing member alexanme
Important historically as a work of propaganda or in examining historical perceptions of the "meaning" of military science.
LibraryThing member viking2917
I can't read this without hearing the voice of Ciaran Hinds (who played Caesar on the tv series Rome) narrating this.....
LibraryThing member sszkutak
I had to read sections of this for a class focused on barbarians, and the various perspectives of what a barbarian is to whom. This was an interesting work to read in that context.


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