CHAPTER XXX. CAESAR'S CAMPAIGNS IN GAUL.

Caesar was now in the prime of manhood, in the full vigor of mind and body. His previous experience in camp life had been comparatively small. His early service in Asia, and his more recent campaigns in Spain, however, had shown his aptitude for military life.

The Romans had already obtained a foothold in Gaul. Since 118, the southern part of the country along the seaboard had been a Roman province, called GALLIA NARBONENSIS, from the colony of Narbo which the Romans had founded. The rest of Gaul included all modern France, and a part of Switzerland, Holland, and Belgium. The inhabitants were all of the Celtic race, except a few Germans who had crossed the Rhine and settled in the North, and the AQUITÁNI, who lived in the Southwest and who are represented by the Basques of to-day.

The Gauls were more or less civilized since they had come into contact with the Romans, but they still had the tribal form of government, like the early Romans. There were more than fifty of these tribes, which were mostly hostile to one another, as well as divided into factions among themselves. This condition favored a conquest, for the factions were frequently Roman and non-Roman. Two of the chief tribes were the AEDUI and SEQUANI. The former had been taken under the protection of Rome; the latter, impatient of control and Roman influence, had invited a tribe of Germans under Ariovistus to come into Gaul and settle, and be their allies. These Germans had attacked and conquered the Aeduans, taken from them hostages, and with the Sequanians were in the ascendency.

In Switzerland lived the HELVETII. They had so increased in numbers that their country was too small for them. They therefore proposed to emigrate farther into Gaul, and the Sequanians, whose lands bordered on those of the Helvetians, gave them permission to march through their country.

Such was the state of affairs when Caesar arrived in Gaul. Feeling that the passage of such a large body of emigrants (368,000) through Gaul would be dangerous to the province (Gallia Narbonensis), he determined to interfere. The Helvetians were met at BIBRACTE, near Autun, and after a terrible battle, which raged from noon until night, were defeated with great slaughter (58). The survivors, about one third, were treated kindly, and most of them sent back to Switzerland.

Caesar now turned his attention to the Germans who had settled west of the Rhine. After several fruitless attempts at negotiation, during which the bad faith of Ariovistus became conspicuous, the forces came together. Though the Germans were brave, they were no match for the drilled legionaries, who fought with the regularity of a machine. Few of the barbarians escaped, but among these was Ariovistus.

The campaigns of this year being ended, the legions were sent into winter quarters among the Sequanians under Labiénus, the lieutenant of Caesar. He himself went into Cisalpine Gaul to attend to his duties as administrator, and to have communication with his friends at Rome.

THE WAR WITH THE BELGAE.

While Caesar was in Hither Gaul, he learned from Labiénus that the BELGAE were forming a league to resist the Romans. This people occupied the northeastern part of Gaul, and embraced several tribes, of which the principal were the REMI, BELLOVACI, SUESSIÓNES, and NERVII. The last were the fiercest and least civilized.

Caesar raised two new legions, making eight in all, and marched against the Belgae as soon as the spring opened. His sudden approach alarmed the Remi, who lived nearest to Central Gaul, and they immediately put themselves under his protection. From them he learned that the Belgae could muster about 300,000 men.

By skilful tactics and a successful attack he put to flight and nearly annihilated the Suessiónes. The Bellovaci now put themselves under his protection, but the Nervii remained in arms. One day, while the six legions were forming camp on the bank of the river Sabis, the Nervii and their allies suddenly rushed upon them from an ambuscade in the woods on the opposite bank. The troops were entirely unprepared, and so quick was the enemy's charge that the Romans had not time to put on their helmets, to remove the covering from their shields, or to find their proper places in the ranks. Great confusion followed, and they became almost panic-stricken. Caesar rushed into their midst, snatched a shield from a soldier, and by his presence and coolness revived their courage. The Nervii were checked, and victory was assured. But the enemy fought on with a bravery that excited the admiration of Caesar. Of sixty thousand men scarcely five hundred survived. The women and children were cared for kindly by Caesar, and settled in their own territory.

The Aduatuci, who had assisted the Nervii in their struggle, were conquered by Caesar and sold into slavery.

Thus ended the Belgian campaign (57). The legions were put into winter quarters near where the war had been waged, and Caesar went to Italy. In his honor was decreed a thanksgiving lasting fifteen days.

THE VENETI. - INVASION OF GERMANY.

All the tribes in the northwestern part of Gaul (Brittany) except the VENETI had given hostages to Crassus, son of the Triumvir, and lieutenant of Caesar. This tribe refused to give hostages, and, inducing others to join them, seized some Roman officers sent among them by Crassus. The campaign of the third year (56) was directed against these people. They were mostly sailors and fishermen, with villages built on the end of promontories and easily defended by land. In a naval engagement, which lasted nearly all day, their whole fleet was destroyed. The leaders of the Veneti were put to death for their treachery in seizing Roman officers, and the rest were sold into slavery.