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 AQUIT?NI, 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, SUESSI?NES, 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 Suessi?nes. 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. The legions spent the winter of 56-55 in the northern part of Gaul, among the Aulerci and neighboring tribes. During this winter another wave of Germans passed over the Rhine into Gaul. They had been driven from their homes by a powerful tribe called the SUEVI. In the spring of 55 Caesar collected his troops and advanced to within twelve miles of the German camp, and gave the invaders twenty-four hours to leave the country. Before the expiration of the time, they attacked Caesar's outposts, killing several Knights, and two men of aristocratic families. In the general engagement that followed, the Germans were totally routed and most of them were slain. Caesar next determined to cross the Rhine into Germany, thinking thus to inspire the Germans with greater fear of the Romans. He built his famous bridge, crossed it, remained eighteen days in Germany, and, thinking his object accomplished, returned to Gaul, destroying the bridge behind him.
INVASION OF BRITAIN. It was now August and Caesar occupied the rest of the season by crossing the Channel to Britain (England). Landing near Deal, with but little resistance on the part of the natives, he explored the country for a short time, and returned in September, as the equinox was near and the weather unsettled. The legions were sent into winter quarters among the Belgae, and Caesar set out for Cisalpine Gaul. During this winter (55-54), orders were given to build a large fleet, as Caesar intended to return to Britain the next year. After all preparations were completed, he set sail, July 20, 54, and the next day landed on the island. He defeated the Britons under their leader CASSIVELAUNUS, and compelled them to pay tribute and give hostages. Many thousand prisoners were taken, and sold in Italy as slaves.
FINAL STRUGGLES OF THE GAULS. In the winter of 54-53 the legions were distributed among several tribes. That stationed in the territory of the Ebur?nes was commanded by the lieutenants, Gab?nus and Cotta. News reached the encampment that there was an uprisal of the Ebur?nes. It was decided to break up camp, and go, if possible, to the winter quarters of their nearest companions. On the march they were surprised and nearly all killed. Only a few stragglers carried the news to Labiénus, who was wintering with a legion among the Remi. This success moved the Nervii to attack Quintus Cicero, the lieutenant who was wintering with his legion among them. Word was sent to Caesar, who had fortunately not yet left Gaul. He hastened to Cicero's relief, raised the siege, and all but annihilated the revolting Nervii. In 53 Caesar punished the Ebur?nes for their action in the previous winter. The tribe was completely destroyed, but their leader, Ambiorix, escaped and was never captured. During this summer Caesar again crossed the Rhine. At the close of the summer he returned to Cisalpine Gaul, supposing that the Gauls were totally subdued. He was mistaken. The patriotism of the people was not yet extinguished. The chiefs of all the tribes secretly established communication with each other. A day was settled upon for a general uprising. The Roman inhabitants of Genabum, on the Liger, were massacred. The leading spirit in this last struggle of the Gauls was VERCINGETORIX, chief of the Averni. Caesar hastened across the Alps, surmounted the difficulties of crossing the Cevennes when the snow was very deep, collected his legions, marched upon Genabum, and plundered and burnt the town. Vercingetorix saw that he was no match for the legions in open battle. He proposed, therefore, to cut off Caesar's supplies by burning all the towns of the Bituriges, and laying the country waste. Avaricum alone was spared. Within its walls were placed the best of their goods and a strong garrison. Thither Caesar marched, and, after a well defended siege, captured the town and killed every person in it, excepting eight hundred, who escaped to the camp of Vercingetorix. Large quantities of corn were taken, with which Caesar supplied his soldiers. He then marched against Gergovia, the capital of the Averni. As the town was on a high plateau, and too strong to be stormed, he laid siege to it. A part of the army, contrary to instructions, one day attempted to assault the place. The battle which followed was disastrous to the Romans, and the only defeat Caesar received in Gaul. Forty-six officers and seven hundred men fell. The siege was raised. It was a serious position for Caesar. All Gaul was in flames. Retreating at once, he formed a junction with Labiénus at Agendicum, and with all his troops started for Gallia Narbonensis to protect it from invasion. On his route was ALESIA. Here Vercingetorix was intrenched with eighty thousand troops. It was, like Gergovia, situated on a hill and considered impregnable. Caesar laid siege to this place (52). Vercingetorix appealed to all Gaul for aid. Hardly had the fortress been invested when Caesar's army was surrounded by an immense force of Gauls that had come to the rescue. Caesar needed now all his skill and genius. But they did not fail him. The relieving army, though five times as large as his, was driven back and sent flying home. Seeing that all was over, Vercingetorix called a council of his chiefs and advised surrender. A message was sent to Caesar. He demanded unconditional surrender, and was obeyed. The people were sold into slavery, and the money obtained distributed among the soldiers. Vercingetorix was kept to be exhibited in the triumph at Rome, and afterwards died in a dungeon. With the fall of Alesia, the subjugation of Gaul was practically completed. The next year (51) Caesar honored several chiefs with privileges; some of the nobles were granted the franchise, and some admitted to the Senate. The work of Romanizing Gaul was fairly begun. Two provinces were formed, Gallia and Belgica, and later (17 A. D.) the former of these was subdivided into Lugdunensis and Aquitania. Roman money was introduced, and Latin became the official language.