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De Bello Gallico: Liber Primus - Forum Book Club

By Decimvs, in 'De Bello Gallico', May 18, 2010.

  1. Decimvs Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    Salvete omnes,

    After a unanimous vote in favor of C. IVLI CAESARIS COMMENTARIORVM DE BELLO GALLICO LIBER PRIMVS, we shall begin reading this week.

    We will start with one short section for this week, and can then either speed up or slow down depending on everyone's skill level and schedule.

    For this week:

    [1] Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli appellantur. Hi omnes lingua, institutis, legibus inter se differunt. Gallos ab Aquitanis Garumna flumen, a Belgis Matrona et Sequana dividit. Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae, propterea quod a cultu atque humanitate provinciae longissime absunt, minimeque ad eos mercatores saepe commeant atque ea quae ad effeminandos animos pertinent important, proximique sunt Germanis, qui trans Rhenum incolunt, quibuscum continenter bellum gerunt. Qua de causa Helvetii quoque reliquos Gallos virtute praecedunt, quod fere cotidianis proeliis cum Germanis contendunt, cum aut suis finibus eos prohibent aut ipsi in eorum finibus bellum gerunt. Eorum una, pars, quam Gallos obtinere dictum est, initium capit a flumine Rhodano, continetur Garumna flumine, Oceano, finibus Belgarum, attingit etiam ab Sequanis et Helvetiis flumen Rhenum, vergit ad septentriones. Belgae ab extremis Galliae finibus oriuntur, pertinent ad inferiorem partem fluminis Rheni, spectant in septentrionem et orientem solem. Aquitania a Garumna flumine ad Pyrenaeos montes et eam partem Oceani quae est ad Hispaniam pertinet; spectat inter occasum solis et septentriones.

    *this was pasted from The Latin Library, so point out mistakes or necessary corrections to them; we are all likely using different texts, this is merely so that we have an idea of where to start and stop reading.

    As always, I recommend the website No Dictionaries.
  2. Nikolaos schmikolaos

    • Censor
    How about taking later parts from this page? That selection is easier to read when broken into smaller paragraphs.
  3. Decimvs Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    I had imagined that we would all be reading from different sources; some people will likely read online, some already have Caesar textbooks of some sort, et cetera.

    I just posted a block of text so that everyone would be clear on what exactly we were going to read together.

    Read from whatever you are most comfortable with. :)
  4. Nikolaos schmikolaos

    • Censor
    Alright - sounds fair enough.
  5. Akela dat affluenter

    • Princeps Senatus
    The book club has started :dancing:

    The formatting in the link Nick suggested is easy on the eyes:)
  6. Decimvs Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    After thinking about it some more, I think that it would be wise to sort of discuss the passages as we are reading them, instead of waiting until a set date. Please feel free to post about the passage any time after they are posted. I think that this will keep the discussion a little bit more lively and consistent. :)
  7. Nikolaos schmikolaos

    • Censor
    Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae, propterea quod a cultu atque humanitate provinciae longissime absunt, minimeque ad eos mercatores saepe commeant atque ea quae ad effeminandos animos pertinent important, proximique sunt Germanis, qui trans Rhenum incolunt, quibuscum continenter bellum gerunt.

    That's a heck of a run-on sentence.
  8. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Cygnea, Gena
    It's not very difficult, though, if you understand the structure of the subordinate clauses.
    You can try to visualise the composition of the sentence by indenting subordinate clauses in different degrees and marking the conjunctions and subjunctions

    Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae,
    ------> propterea quod a cultu atque humanitate provinciae longissime absunt,
    ------> minimeque ad eos mercatores saepe commeant
    ------> atque ea
    ------------> quae ad effeminandos animos pertinent
    ------> important,
    proximique sunt Germanis,
    ------------> qui trans Rhenum incolunt,
    ------------> quibuscum continenter bellum gerunt.

    not sure if that makes it any clearer though :> ... I hope it shows you that you can just translate from conjunction (-que, atque) to conjunction.
  9. Nikolaos schmikolaos

    • Censor
    I managed to work through it from comma to comma, but the way you broke it up is a bit easier to work through.
  10. Decimvs Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    There is another one that you will just love at the beginning of Book II. :D
  11. AZA New Member

    Of course if we are going to look at this, the beginning of Caesar's history of the Gallic wars, consider we should this: namely the fact that this is an unusual type of beginning for ancient histories: if you compare it with, at a moment's thought, the beginnings of Polybius, Herodotus, Thucydides, Livy, even Florus, to name some obvious historians start with a ratus scribendi, so to speak, indeed with the exception of Caesar himself the only other Classical Historian that I have read that starts in media res is Velleius Paterculus - whose text be most corrupt.

    I will proceed to build on this argument: I think the most interesting Classical Historical work to compare Caesar to is Thucyidides as they have the unique (well not overall, but for the purpose of this comparison) point that they both set out to chronicle a single war. However there be divergence: Casear starts in media res, Thucydides feels the need to trace the origins of war back. Again what does this prove about De Bello Gallico? As I said I think it makes De Bello an interesting work due to the atypical nature of it in comparison to other historical works. However when considering it in terms of reader response let us look at it like this: on the one hand, with Thucydides we have a work that is explicitly preserved for posterity and hence, although it was written by people participating in the war, and who would have survived it and been reading it, Thucydides eye was on those who would come in the far future. On the other hand, when we look at Casesar we see this: it is a brief journalistic account - indeed it be most likely that he intended this for the Senate, and the educated classes of Rome - I suspect as a work it is fairly typical of Generals would have produced after the war. Therefore, one might conclude, this is an utterly different type of historical writing to other classical histories - while one be historical writing for the sake of history the other be historical in the sense of a newpaper reporting the events of recent times. Hopefully this relevant point will further the discussion.
    Judith Owen likes this.
  12. angus New Member

    Is Caesar setting the scene, giving a bit of geography and description of the different inhabitants not without ascribing a few qualities to the races ? Reading the opening lines several times, I find the consonants quite heavy and hard mostly 'q's which seem to rumble and grind slowly creating an ambience of discord, faction, division and active belligerence. This is how it sounds to me.
  13. metrodorus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    I think. if you are reading aloud, it is imperative to use a marked text, with the long and short vowels - assuming you are making recordings to have other people listen to in public? There are plenty of marked texts of Books One available online. If not, it does not matter too much, although getting good habits with pronunciation from the beginning is easier than trying to correct bad habits later.
    There are some very good beginning Caesar texts available on archive.org , and some examples of people reading Caesar aloud exist online.
  14. Decimvs Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    Excellent observation!

    I find this entire book so interesting. He doesn't start out telling the reader why he is in Gaul, or why it is necessary to be acting on these people, et cetera.

    He is very concerned with letting the reader know that it is divided into three parts, what they are called, who lives in them, some geography, and who the most fierce people are, and why they are strong.

    It seems as though Caesar is showing a little bit of contempt for Roman city life, perhaps a small jab at the pampered senatorial life of the city? He describes the Belgae as far away "a cultu atque humanitate provinciae" but also as "fortissimi." They don't have as much contact with "ea quae ad effeminandos animos pertinent"...is this suggesting that Roman city life makes one weak and effeminate? Maybe it emphasizes that Caesar is very brave, since he spends all of his time in Gaul, far from the city life. Is he reminding the senate how strong he is? I have just always found this part fascinating, that he describes them as far from culture and humanity, but then as the most brave. :wondering:
  15. Labienus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    I think you're right. It's a very common trait. Caesar is exploring a foreign and dangerous land. The stranger and more dangerous it is, the more fascinated his reader and the more impressed the reader is with Caesar's future daring, bravery, accomplishments etc..

    I notice it particularly in poetry (e.g. Horace, Lucan, who spring immediately to mind) but it's not hard to imagine why Caesar would start a work so given his political intentions and ambition.
  16. Reziac Member

    Now that's an interesting point. Think of him as what we'd call a war correspondent.
  17. AZA New Member

    That depends - is he a correspondant in the form of writing whilst campaigning or more of a Churchill who made his account of WWII after the war?
  18. Reziac Member

    No idea. Did he write on the spot, or only after the war?
  19. Imber Ranae Ranunculus Iracundus

    • Civis Illustris
    Caesar probably wrote, or rather dictated, a great deal of the commentaries while he was on campaign in Gaul. Of course they would later be arranged and heavily edited by him before publication. But since he was one of the principal participants in the war, in no way can he be compared to a modern war correspondent.
  20. Reziac Member

    Actually, the concept of "war correspondent" as we have it today originated from random young men's journals from the trenches, rather than from career reporters. This was still the case as late as WW1. The behind-the-lines non-combatant journalist of recent memory is, I'd agree, not the same.

    Back to Caesar... I'm wondering if the scribe of the moment had any influence on the style (or caused variations within the document), or was the custom to record word for word?

    Even to someone whose Latin is (alas) thin to start with and corroded to near-nothing by time, it's interesting to compare the writing style to other contemporary authors. Caesar's style is direct and plain, to the point that anyone with the barest literacy can muddle through it (not the case with writings from his fellows, who can be right convoluted). Did he write everything this way, or just stuff geared toward what soldier types would be interested in, with the knowledge that their reading comprehension might not be the best? In other words, was he just a blunt basic writer regardless, or was he, in this case, writing to a specific audience who might not be the most sophisticated readers; or was that simply his own level of literacy? Has this aspect ever been studied?? Why does Rez think up such weird questions? :wondering:

    The run-on sentence is a modern disparagement that came about after grammar was finally codified into a set of hard-and-fast rules in the 1800s. If you think our example was bad, try some of the English "classics". The introduction to Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter has one sentence that goes on for (if I recall right the actual count) over 300 words!! I'm reminded that I once diagrammed the damned thing... and this makes me wonder if anyone diagrams Latin sentences!!

    I also write (science fiction, and no you haven't read any of it) and have edited for other folks, which has probably warped my mind...

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