The Gallic Wars is a series of military campaigns led by the Roman proconsul Julius Caesar against several Gallic tribes. The war of Rome against these tribes lasts from 58 to 51-50 BC. AD, and ends in the decisive battle of Alesia in 52 BC. AD, which leads to the expansion of the Roman Republic over the whole of Gaul.
The internal division between the Gallic tribes - militarily as strong as the Romans - facilitates the victory of Caesar, and the attempt to unify the Gauls by Vercingetorix against the Roman invasion comes too late. Although Caesar described this invasion as a preventive and defensive action, most historians agree that the war is waged primarily to boost his political career and to allow him to repay his considerable debts. This war paves the way for Caesar's civil war, which leaves him the sole ruler of the Roman Republic. However, Gaul is of significant importance to the Romans, as they were attacked by various members of the native tribes of Gaul and further north. The conquest of Gaul allowed Rome to secure the natural border of the Rhine. It is described by Caesar in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico, which remains, concerning the conflict, the most important historical source.
Comments on the Gallic War
The account of the Gallic Wars is mainly based on the work of its main architect, Julius Caesar: his Commentaries on the Gallic Wars, which are considered to be a work of history. The first seven books are written by Caesar during the military campaign since 58 BC. AD, are published in Rome by two or three, then collected in three months after the surrender of Alesia around 52-51 BC. The eighth book is written later by Aulus Hirtius, who describes the last battles of 51 BC. AD and the situation in Gaul in 50 BC. J.-C ..
The avowed intention of Caesar is, according to Aulus Hirtius, to "provide documents to historians on such important events". This work is not a traditional history work but belongs to the Commentarii genre, a collection of raw notes (commentarius) taken in the field and intended to serve as a source, hence the chronological organization of the eight books, their appearance. factual and concise style. The work, written in the third person, provides no direct indication of Caesar's opinions, thoughts, and judgments. His assistants attach ethnographic or geographical descriptions taken from Greek authors, and sort out the factual data (dictated notes, letters, reports to the Senate) collected during the war. Caesar then only has to write the final version.
As soon as it is published, the work is judged as a literary masterpiece. Cicero admires these "Commentaries (...) naked, simple, elegant, stripped (...) of any oratorical ornament", and affirms that "by proposing to provide materials from which would draw those who would like to write history ( ...) [Caesar] took away the desire to write, because there is nothing more pleasant in history than a pure and luminous brevity ”.
These reviews are the only first-hand source available; the texts of Livy are lost, and no other contemporary work preserved evokes the subject. Their author being the main protagonist of the conquest, their reliability has often been questioned. First of all by other witnesses of Caesar's entourage having a different vision (in particular Asinius Pollion, of which unfortunately only a few fragments remain), then by the slayers of Caesarism, such as Montaigne, who in his Essays denounces the " false colors of what [Caesar] wants to cover his bad cause and the filth of his pestilent ambition ”. From the mid-nineteenth century, the debate p