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De Bello Gallico: Liber Primus - Forum Book Club

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

  1. quidquodquidquo New Member

    It would be good to revive this thread - but I'm now in the beginning of Liber III of De Bello Gallico. This Metamorphoses actually sounds very interesting, though.
    Callaina likes this.
  2. Callaina Feles Curiosissima

    • Civis Illustris
  3. illa Member

    I can warmly recommend the third book of De bello Gallico to everyone. It tells the troubles Caesar has been going through in conquering the Bretons. If you follow french politics and the troubles they are having with the Bretons on a regular basis, this book seems very modern! Moreover the cat and mouse strategy of the Bretons is quite amusing. If anyone would like some help in reading this book (or any other from the BG) feel free to ask.
  4. quidquodquidquo New Member

    I'm early on, in the part where (if I'm reading this correctly) Galba gets attacked by the Seduni and Veragrori. I've been feeling my comprehension ability rise as I read the first two books. I still don't think I could give a word-for-word translation, but I'm almost always getting the gist of the text.
  5. Callaina Feles Curiosissima

    • Civis Illustris
    You might want to consider trying exactly this. I found it enormously helpful when I was working through Somnium Scipionis -- not that I set out to translate the whole thing, LOL, but I needed help with a couple paragraphs early on and so I translated what I could from them; and then I just kept going... :D

    I just find that, if I read quickly and try to "get the gist", I miss a lot. Whereas word-for-word translation forces me to consider everything, and to be a lot more meticulous about stuff like making sure I have the right tense and mood, and making a distinction between "hic" and "ille" (LOL, as the ever-patient Pacis puella will confirm, I'm sure ;) ) and to really get a grip on points of syntax I haven't encountered yet. Yes, it's a lot slower and more frustrating at times. But since the meaning of an entire sentence can hinge on a single word, I think it's worth it. (And translation is a good skill to learn, anyway!)

    Anyway, just a suggestion. It's what I'm going to be doing with the Apuleius, and anything else that isn't absolutely trivial to read, at least for the moment... :)
  6. quidquodquidquo New Member


    I'm giving Caesar another try, and boy is it much better this time! Now that I understand subjunctives, gerundives, and especially the ablative absolute it all makes far more sense, and Caesar's simple, clean prose shines through.
  7. gedwimere Active Member

    A few days ago, I finished reading the first book. Now I would like to comment on it and perhaps start a new discussion in this nearly forgotten thread.

    – Those times were astonishingly brutal. For example, in chapter 28, we learn that Caesar ordered to seek and bring back the six thousand people that had flied, and then 'reductos in hostium numero habuit'. Allen & Greenough explain this phrase concisely in the notes: 'i.e. he massacred them all'. :eek: Then, Chapter 29 shows how enormous were the overall losses among the Helvetii.

    – Caesar describes interestingly the fear of the soldiers, who were writing their testaments, putting on brave faces, weeping, when the confrontation with the Germani was drawing near. This makes the narration all the more realistic and poignant.

    – There were some very pleasing descriptions of scenery, as 'flumen est Arar incredibili lenitate, ita ut oculis in utram partem fluat iudicari non possit' in Chapter 12 and the description of Vesontio in Chapter 38.

    – It had already been observed in those times that too much luxury and comfort 'ad effeminandos animos pertinent', and this both by the Romans, and the Germans, who said with pride that they had not been under a roof for 14 years.

    – Apparently, the name Ariovistus is conjuctured to be cognate to Heerfürst o_O

    – In Allen & Greenough's edition of the text, the ending 'īs' of the plural accusative of an i-stem noun or adjective is used at least as often as 'ēs'.

    – The phrase 'quod si' appears, if I am not mistaken, seven times. This 'quod' apparently can have the meaning of 'but, though, now'. This meaning surprised me mightily when I looked it up L&S and in Gildersleeve's grammar.

    – Lots of Oratio Obliqua, some of which contains changes of the point of view from that of the reporter to that of the speaker, e.g. in chapters 13-14 there is an exchange of speeches between Divico and Caesar, in which at first imperfect and pluperfect subjunctive are used in dependend clauses, whereas later in the same exchange present and perfect subjunctive are used instead (even though the verb introducing the Oratio Obliqua is still 'respondit'). Gildersleeve's grammar was again helpful.

    – Overall, it was a very interesting and educational reading, a great complement of history textbooks. I can see why De Bello Gallico was a standard text to be read by schoolchildren.

    Any thoughts by others, especially those who have read Liber I or parts of it?
  8. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Those are ways to render it into normal English, but the literal meaning of this sort of quod is something like "with regards to which".
    gedwimere likes this.
  9. Aurifex Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    You got that the wrong way round, gedwimere; it's the history textbooks that complement Caesar's Commentaries.
    gedwimere likes this.
  10. gedwimere Active Member

    Right, this may suffice for a literal translation, but it's a very vague and wordy expression, which in a less literal translation should probably be rewritten anyway with something more precise, on a case by case basis. It still seems to me that quod is overloaded with meanings: quod the relative pronoun, quod meaning 'because', and now this quod. But I think I will get used to it soon. 'That' in English and 'que' in French are, after all, no less multifunctional.

    It's a very beautiful thought, and very true. Now I feel even all the more motivated to read works of ancient authors.
  11. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    I think you misinterpreted the intention of my post. I wasn't at all suggesting "with regards to which" as a "normal"/"good English" translation, but it was only to explain how the Latin worked. As you expressed your surprise at it being translated as "though", "but", etc., I imagined that you were a bit confused because you thought those were literal translation and you didn't understand how it really worked. But maybe I was wrong to think so.
  12. gedwimere Active Member

    No, I did not misinterpret it. I was thankful (thought it is true that I failed to express it) for your post, which confirmed what I had read earlier in Gildersleeve, that this 'quod' can indeed be thought about like this. You wrote in your post that it was literal translation, not normal English, and I repeated the same, only adding some more ramblings about from how many English words one has to choose when translating 'quod'.
  13. gedwimere Active Member

    The title of the thread contains "Liber Primus", but it does not seem that Caesar generates so much discussion that separate threads for all the eight books are needed, so I'll continue here, and write my comments on the second book, which is about the campaign in Belgia.

    – Caesar brought to Belgia mercenaries from faraway lands: 'Numidas et Cretas sagittarios et funditores Baleares subsidio oppidanis mittit'. I would not have guessed that he even had units from Crete.

    – More massacres, for example in Chapter 11: 'Ita sine ullo periculo tantam eorum multitudinem nostri interfecerunt quantum fuit diei spatium'. Allen & Greenough commented (in notes to some other chapter): 'it has been observed that Caesar's dealing with the Gauls was comparatively merciful for a Roman dealing with barbarians, but his cruelty seems to us atrocious.' So by some other Romans the barbarians were treated even worse...

    – During the battle with Nervii, Caesar had to lead his troops from the front line. This was the only dangerous for him moment of the campaign, which was otherwise very easy, even though the Belgae were numerous.

    – In Chapters 30-31, siege towers were first laughed at by the barbarians, but then, when they started moving, made them resign immediately. It was a somewhat funny situation.

    – "Caesar the narrator" writes about the deeds of "Caesar the general" in the 3rd person, but about what he himself has wrote in the 1st person plural, as in Chapter 29: 'Atuatuci, de quibus supra diximus, [...]

    – At last, I came across videbantur with the meaning 'what they saw fit', in Chapter 19: 'His difficultatibus duae res erant subsidio, scientia atque usus militum, quod superioribus proeliis exercitati quid fieri oporteret non minus commode ipsi sibi praescribere quam ab aliis doceri poterant, et quod ab opere singulisque legionibus singulos legatos Caesar discedere nisi munitis castris vetuerat. Hi propter propinquitatem et celeritatem hostium nihil iam Caesaris imperium expectabant, sed per se quae videbantur administrabant'.

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