Commentarii de Bello Gallico
(variously translated into English as Commentaries on the Gallic War
, The Conquest of Gaul
, or simply The Gallic War
) is the firsthand account of Gaius Julius Caesar
's campaigns in Gaul (modern-day France), Germany, and Britain between 59 and 51 BC. During the eight years he served as governor of the Roman Gallic provinces, Caesar fought numerous campaigns against the Celtic and Germanic inhabitants of the area to keep the Roman colonies there secure and gain riches and glory for himself and his soldiers.
The Commentaries themselves are divided into eight books, seven by Caesar himself and one written by a supporter after his death, each covering a timespan of about one year. The books stand out from many of their contemporary works by virtue of Caesar's plain, straightforward style
, which makes them popular to this day as an introductory text for beginning students of the Latin Language
Of note to wargamers: The Commentaries
, along with the Anabasis
of Xenophon, serve together as the earliest classical prototypes of the After Action Report
As the work is in the public domain (by virtue of predating the concept of copyright by nearly two thousand years), the original text is freely available online
. Those who don't read ancient dead languages might find this English translation
a bit easier to follow.
The Commentaries provide examples of the following tropes:
- Barbarian Tribe: Caesar paints a rather unflattering picture of the Celts as a group of savages that are constantly feuding and scheming against one another, faithless in their alliances, and savage in combat.
- Beige Prose: Caesar's writing style is considerably more straightforward and less poetic than other ancient works.
- Infodump: Repeat after me: Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres...English Caesar's opening description of the geography and peoples of Gaul might be the most famous infodump in Western civilization.
- The Migration: Book One begins with the Helvetii leaving for greener pastures as part of a power play by one of their leaders. They end up causing trouble for Rome and its allies in Gaul, prompting Caesar to respond with military force.
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Numerous instances, committed by both the Romans and their enemies.
- Playing Both Sides: Dumnorix of the Aedui worked as a licensed tax collector for the Romans, then used the money and influence he gained from the position to dissuade his countrymen from opposing the Helvetii while they fought the Romans.
- Rousing Speech: Caesar gives these to his troops frequently to spur them into action.
- Third-Person Person: Caesar never refers to himself in the first person when writing about his exploits.