Scott's Reviews > The Gallic War

The Gallic War by Julius Caesar
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's review
May 18, 10

bookshelves: history, war, antiquity, latin
Read from May 16 to 17, 2010

Julius Caesar, the Roman geezer, lays omnis Gallia waste with his customary clemency, celerity, and efficiency. The Gallic War is a startling read, no less for its cracking pace and clear style, than for its shameless brutality and its unblushing depiction of greed and violence on an international scale: entire governments executed, civilian populations enslaved en masse, mass mutilations ... you get the feeling sometimes that that you're reading the diaries Hitler would have written, if he had won the war.

I started reading this account of his conquests some 25 years ago, when I was an undergrad studying Latin. At that time, Caesar was simply a beginner's intro to Latin prose. After reading the first book or so, students were shuffled into more complex and presumably more rewarding books and authors. So De Bello Gallico sat on the bookshelf for a quarter century until the other day, I blew off the cobwebs, wiped away the mold, and cracked it open. I was astonished to discover I could still read Latin, and even more astounded to find that I actually enjoyed the history ... in a "fascination with the abomination" sort of way.

Next to Cicero, Caesar was considered by his contemporaries to be the greatest stylist and most effective orator. He certainly has the skill to cast his side of the story in the best light. His narrative of his personal conquest of Gaul is riveting reading, well illustrated with accounts of skirmishes, sieges, ambushes, political intrigues, and brief character sketches. There were times when I even felt bad for the invading Romans who had managed to do what the Gauls themselves had never accomplished on their own: unite some two dozen warring tribes into a combined and coordinated army.

De Bello Gallico is a fascinating read, as much for its compelling story as for the insights it offers into the thoughts and methods of a dictator.
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message 1: by Anton (new)

Anton Yes, you may still know latin, but you still have not learnt to distinguished the different historical ages. We are talkinga bouty a brutal age, and Rome wass no different from anyone else, in fact it was invaded by more barbarous and murderous people.
And please the populations that Ceaser took in the roman influence, where not much better..or have you forgotten that these same people invaded Roman teritories and destroyed towns and villages and killed people during their raids?

I think that besides reading De Bello Galligo you should try to read roman history taht at least it is written unlike gallic, british or german (in that age) as a matter of fact.

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