2002-12-29: War Commentaries of Caesar

War Commentaries of Caesar (tr. 1960)

by Julius Caesar (ca. 45 BC), translated by Rex Warner (1905-1986)

This is a straightforward translation, with only minimal editorial notes regarding the text. There is no background information.

The commentary on the Gallic Wars (58 BC to 50 BC) show Caesar’s matter-of-fact style, and are easy to read (assuming willingness to read about battles). Although much of the writing is about battles, strategy, and tactics, there are also descriptions of the characteristics of the Gauls and Germans as peoples. Although not the subject of direct description, the Roman approach to warfare also comes through in descriptions of fortifications and other engineering works. The building of a bridge over the Rhine in 55 BC is particularly interesting.

The period 51-50 BC was not written by Caesar, but by Aulus Hirtius. Evidently, Caesar was not interested in the mopping-up operations of the period. It would be interesting to know when he actually wrote the Commentaries.

The Civil Wars commentary begins in 50 BC with brief reference to a dispute in the Senate. For one (like me) unfamiliar with the history of the period, it is not immediately clear what the dispute is about, or its roots. I should find a history of Rome from the Republic to (say) Augustus.

Again, the writing is forthright (if self-serving), but the larger strategic picture is unclear. If one did not know that Caesar became the eventual dictator of Rome and its conquered lands, this book would not reveal it.


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