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The Battle for Gaul, by Julius Caesar

I actually read this seven years ago, and swisstone recommended this edition, with translation by Anne and Peter Wiseman (the latter lectured J.K. Rowling in classics and is rumoured to have been a model for Dumbledore) and lots more maps and photographs of archaeological remains. Reading the introduction, I was startled by the Wisemans' description of the Gauls as "primitive" and the Britons and Germans as even more so. The book was published in 1980 which seems rather late in the day for such strong colonialist language. Caesar himself is much clearer about the strengths of his opponents - the Helvetii had a Greek-language census, the Veneti have excellent seafaring skills (though the Romans of course still win) and Ambiorix and Vercingetorix come close to beating him. Granted, of course, this is propaganda to make the writer look good by defeating sophisticated foes, but the editors frame the narrative more strongly in terms of civilised Romans vs barbarians than Caesar does. Certainly he seems to have killed a lot more non-combatants, or at least bragged about doing so, which is hardly a mark of civilisation.

Anyway, it's a straightforward military narrative written by a key figure, and refreshingly clear even two millennia later. Worth the reread.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
swisstone
Dec. 2nd, 2015 05:55 pm (UTC)
Well, I did recommend it because you were looking for a version with detailed maps. I do not endorse the colonialism, though I am sadly not surprised by it.
resonant
Dec. 3rd, 2015 01:41 am (UTC)
chickenfeet2003
Dec. 3rd, 2015 01:19 pm (UTC)
The sheer brutality of the Romans (and at times the Greeks) is almost always underplayed in Western historiography. It's ideological. We are taught that they are our spiritual and political forebears so they have to be admirable.
pennski
Dec. 3rd, 2015 04:09 pm (UTC)
Please tell me that one small village is still holding out...
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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