Gaius Julius Caesar: Commentaries on Civil War (Commentarii de bello civili) Summary by Michael McGoodwin, prepared 2003

Acknowledgement: This work has been summarized using Oxford World's Classics 1998 edition translated from Latin by John Carter 1996. Quotations are taken from that work unless otherwise noted. Latin text quotations are from The Latin Library Overall Impression: This important Latin language classic, written c. 45 BCE, is short but rather tough going for a nonhistorian, even in English. But it is interesting to see the development of a complex and increasingly powerful dictator and general. The Oxford edition does a good job of spelling out where and to what extent the author is deceptive or self-serving. Notes: (1) For a good overall summary of Caesar's life, see the Encyclopædia Britannica Online article by Arnold Joseph Toynbee (2) Roman Naming Conventions (excerpted from Most aristocratic Roman men--the Patricians and the Equites (i.e., knights)--had three names (the tria nomina): a "praenomen," a "nomen," and a "cognomen," which were typically written in that order... The praenomen was the counterpart of our first [personal or Christian] name (including Decimus (D), Caius or Gaius (C or G), Cnaeus or Gnaeus (Cn or Gn), Lucius (L), Publius (P), Quintus (Q), Titus (T), etc. The eldest son was normally given the praenomen of his father... The nomen, the clan or tribal name (aka "gens" name), was similar to our surname. These include Julius, Domitius, etc. By the end of the Late Republic there were 35 major (voting) tribes. The cognomen was the family name or branch of the tribe (aka gens) [i.e., the cognomen may represent a particular branch of the tribal gens name or nomen]. It tended to indicate ancient lineage, and citizens who had just achieved aristocratic status were eager to acquire a cognomen to pass on to their children. Such citizens often chose their own based on physical or mental traits, behavioral peculiarities, wish-names (e.g., Felix [favorable, auspicious]), circumstances of birth or sex (e.g., Natalis [natal], Masculus [male, vigorous]), occupations (e.g., Agricola [farmer]), historical figures (e.g., Sulla, Alexander), names of the gods or mythological names (e.g., Saturninus, Romulus, Didorus, Hermes), or other nicknames based on animals or plants (e.g., Cicero [chickpea], Coepis [onion], Porcius [pig], Asinius [ass])...

including M.1 Begins in January 49 BCE [seemingly missing a substantial block of beginning text]. After defeating him. His enemies were out to destroy him. I. I. He sets out for Ariminium in NE Italy just south of the Rubicon [i. [This is one of many examples Caesar cites wherein he shows great leniency to his defeated foes. Caesar says "the laws of god and man were overturned. for the opening session of the senate Jan.(Outline headings excerpted and modified from the Oxford text) Book I The outbreak of civil war. He assembles many ships and successfully sails across the Adriatic to Epirus (March 17. I. no longer in Cisalpine Gaul]. more important than his life".. The campaign of Ilerda and defeat of Afranius and Petreius.. I. Decisions about Caesar's tenure in command are made January 7.29 Pompey's forces escape from Caesar at Brundisium and cross the Adriatic to Epirus." I.6 Events in Rome.. The other consul in 49 BCE is Gaius Claudius Marcellus (Marcellus) [who is less opposed to Caesar]..] I.30 . Caesar abandons the effort to pursue Pompey. The tribunes Marcus Antonius (Antonius) and Quintus Cassius Longinus (Cassius). I.. Caesar's ally. Massilia refuses to admit Caesar.7 . 'dignitatem' fr. Sardinia.] While Caesar pays lip service to his civic duty.33 The capture of Sardinia and Sicily.e.4 Caesar outlines the motives of his enemies. takes the town of Iguvium. Caesar in Rome.. 1. Caesar attempt to block the eastern port of Brundisium [on the heel of Italy]. Pompey refuses to meet with Caesar. dignitas] had always been his first consideration. Gaius Scribonius Curio (Curio).24 . as did Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio (Scipio) [Pompey's father-in-law]. His advance is opposed by Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (Domitius). and requires Domitius' soldiers to take an oath of loyalty to him. Porcius Cato (Cato). I. and the tribunes vetoed a motion against Caesar. [According to Plutarch.12 Caesar invades Italy while continuing to negotiate for a settlement. 49 BCE). . supporters of Caesar. Caesar invades Italy. Caesar sends away unharmed the captured opposing leaders and senators etc.5 -6 The pro-Caesar tribunes have to flee for their safety to join Caesar [in Ravenna in Cisalpine Gaul]. Gaius Julius Caesar (Caesar or JC) is in Cisalpine Gaul and he has written a letter which has been delivered to the new consul Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Crus (Lentulus). as had other supporters of Caesar. an enemy of GJC. attempted to defend the letter. he says "The die is cast". He makes proposals to equitably reduce Pompey's and his armies. early January 49 BCE. Pompey works to line up allies including King Juba [of Numidia]. he also states "his [Caesar's] standing [acc. Flight of the tribunes to Caesar. where he meets with tribunes Antonius and Cassius. Caesar refers to himself as Imperator [a title of honor originally meaning victorious commander but eventually coming to mean general and then emperor]. Lentulus spoke out in favor of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey).23 Caesar advances south and besieges and captures Corfinium. Sicily..14 .1 .

34 . I 61 . recovering the supplies brought by the convoy. and food. I. .55 Caesar in trouble after severe flooding and restricted food supply Unusually heavy rains follow. and Curio to Sicily. and they surrender. Finally on August 2. Domitius has become proconsul of Gaul and has been sent to gain control of Massilia. Afranius begins attacks on Fabius's forces. but these efforts are stopped by Afranius and Petreius I. Caesar commences a siege against Massilia. Caesar arrives at Ilerda on c. Meanwhile things are looking up for Caesar in Ilerda. Pompey has sent Lucius Afranius (Afranius) and Marcus Petreius (Petreius) as his deputies (legati) to Nearer Spain (Hispania Citerior) and they decide to join forces at Ilerda. and it appears that a surrender is imminent.60 The first sea battle off the coast of Massilia (June 49) Caesar's ships are less skillfully built than those of the Massiliots and outnumbered. slow progress.42 Caesar establishes his position in Hispania Citerior (Nearer Spain) at Ilerda [on the river Sicors or Segre] Caesar sends Gaius Fabius (Fabius) on to Spain as his deputy. Caesar has cut off the enemy from water. There he defends his actions and speaks bitterly of what his enemies have done. suggests he may run the state by himself. and decides to travel on to Further Gaul ("ulteriorem Galliam"). Book II Siege and surrender of Massilia. fighting resumes. and Caesar is cut off from resupply convoys coming from the east and across the Segre River. I 48 . I. Battle begins. fuel. toward Celtiberia) but is cut off I. where he meets with the Senate. Roused by their hostile actions. June 23. 49. He is obstructed by Lucius Metellus and other Pompey adherents. Afranius declines Caesar's invitation to engage in combat immediately.Caesar sends Quintus Valerius to capture Sardinia.78 -87 Surrender of the Pompeian army led by Afranius and Petreius There are continues desertions to Caesar's side.36 The siege of Massilia [Marseilles] commences. I 56 .72 The Pompeian army withdraws towards the Ebro River (to the south. Caesar's men make ships like those they found in Britain and successfully cross the river upstream. In contrast. and the sea battle there (late June) is inconclusive.43 -47 The battle near Ilerda Ilerda is on the Segres river. while he himself goes to Rome. Caesar demonstrates great leniency to the soldiers and to their leaders. He also places Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus (Decimus Brutus) in charge of his ship fleet there. Marcus Terentius Varro (Varro) was sent to Hispania Ulterior as legatus. The Massiliots close their gates to Caesar. north of the confluence with the Cinca river (the Ebro river enters a little further south). and is inconclusive. Caesar maintains maximum mobility by not permitting his men to erect tents. I.73 . Afranius is well supplied and resupplied. Again.77 Fraternization between the armies ensues.37 .

1. II. Varus's troops are routed. Flight and death of Pompey. They send down burning pitch and pine-shavings and the Caesarians undermine the foundations of their city walls. Summary of forces available to Caesar and to Pompey. and he is wounded. In a note of Caesarian irony. The campaign of Pharsalus. He battles with Decimus Brutus. out of over-confidence and the low esteem he holds for the governor of Africa.16 Further siege works. Caesar receives reinforcements. Curio calls a war council and exhorts his men to fight nobly. then heads to Brundisium. Troubles in Italy. Caesar's legatus) conducts the siege of Massilia using a variety of siege machines including towers. and King Juba takes several senator captives back to Numidia for display and execution. and in the consular election he is elected consul along with Publius Servilius Isauricus. But he stays in Rome only 11 days. a siege-ramp. Curio learns that King Juba of Numidia [west of Africa] is sending large reinforcements to Varus.21 Varro surrenders to Caesar in Hispania Ulterior (Further Spain) II. They are near surrender II. Naval operations. He is opposed near Anquillaria by young Lucius Caesar (a Pompeian) but the Caesarians successfully land and form a camp near Utica at the River Bagradas.23 .Defeat of Varro. Curio sets siege to Utica.1. He is trying to . thus allowing Lucius Nasidius to bring more ships to the aid of Domitius at Massilia. but withdraws from the sea fighting defeated and sails for Spain. Book III Caesar crosses to Epirus to face Pompey. At one point they seem to surrender and declare a truce. and a "tortoise" II. etc.3 . taking fewer legions than he has been given. Saburra (Juba's military commander) entraps Curio and his army is slaughtered.8 . Only a few are able to escape on their ships. II. III. He blockades Pompey outside Dyrrachium but is defeated.5 Caesar in Italy.44 Expedition of Curio to Africa. with Caesar showing his usual leniency II. Caesar is dictator in Rome.22 Final surrender to Caesar of Massilia. Varus' troops are encamped next to Utica.7 The second sea-battle off Massilia Caesar tells of Curio's carelessness in now adequately guarding the Sicilian Straits. Publius Attius Varus (Varus). In a first battle. In a series of mistakes by Curio from over-confidence and poor judgment. Curio is hailed as imperator (victorious general) for his minimal heroic deeds (rebus gestis). Curio however becomes misled as to whether Juba is coming with his reinforcements. checks Scipio.2 Trebonius conducts siege operations against Massilia Gaius Trebonius (Trebonius. but at night they cunningly destroy the siege works in a gross violation of the treaty. and his defeat near Utica by King Juba Curio sets out in August 49 to sail for Africa. leading to first surrender and renewed resistance of the Massiliots The Massiliots valiantly defend against the siege machines and works. Start of the Alexandrian War.17 . Curio's disaster in Africa.

and begins to wall in Pompey.. Caesar takes Oricum and Apollonia. abortive negotiations for peace Caesar's ships are blockaded and prevented from reaching Epirus with supplies and reinforcements.30 Reinforcements reach Caesar by sea Coponius attempts to attack them. Caesar notes "thus the preservation of the army hung on a matter or minutes and a remarkable chance".13 Caesar crosses the Adriatic.38 Caesar's generals check Scipio in Macedonia and Thessaly Caesar sends Lucius Cassius Longinus (brother to Gaius. III. Clashes..34 . Caesar marches north and joins Antonius. which is declined.20 . and Pompey marches toward the coast. Temporary stalemate. but Marcus Antonius and Calenus successfully break the blockade and sail for Epirus. Caesar heads for Asparagium and offers battle to Pompey. Libo blockades the Caesarian ships at Brundisium. III. Caesar sends his ships back to Brundisium to bring the rest of his army--and Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus (Bibulus) attacks the ships.24 Antonius breaks Libo's blockade of Brundisium It has been many months of waiting and still the ships and legions have not come to Caesar.31 . and Libo resorts to a ruse. III. but there are insufficient ships available to take his entire army across the Adriatic in one trip. Pompey refuses to talk peace.55 The nature of warfare at Dyrrachium..14 . 48.gather up a fleet. but the locals resist the Pompeians. . etc. III. Apollonia.39 .23 . III. III. reaches Salonae.22 Insurrection of Marcus Caelius Rufus and Milo in Italy III.. Marcus Octavius..25 . Caesar crosses the Adriatic and lands the next day in Epirus at the Ceraunian range [modern Albania] at Palaeste. He summarizes Pompey's forces and supplies gathered in Epirus. Caesar makes his winter camp near Apollonia. Caesar's troops attack Oricum. pretending to want to negotiate for peace. Pompey holds important coastal towns including Dyrrachium. and sends a message to Caesar. III. the later tyrannicide) to Thessaly and Gaius Calvisius Sabinus to Aetolia and Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus to Macedonia. Pompey takes Dyrrachium. burning many and killing many of the men. He successfully conveys the message to Quintus Fufius Calenus (Calenus) not to attempt to bring the ships over. Caesar blocks the Pompeian commanders Lucius Scribonius Libo (Libo) and Bibulus from landing on the Epirus coast.46 Caesar cuts Pompey off from Dyrrachium and starts to invest his army .. Caesar desires to send peace overtures to Pompey via Lucius Vibullius Rufus. but they sail past Dyrrachium and land to the north at Nymphaeum. JC reaches Dyrrachium.47 . takes Oricum and Apollonia On January 4. One of Pompey's commanders. in Candavia) and informs him of Caesar's presence in Epirus.33 Scipio's behavior as proconsul in Syria Scipio turns his back on the Parthian enemy at his borders and decides against plundering the temple at Ephesus in order to come to the aid of his son-in-law Pompey. III. Vibullius goes to Pompey (who is inland.6 . Bibulus falls ill and dies.19 Caesar suffers naval blockade. Antonius disembarks his troops at the nearby town of Lissus. just south of the river Apsus from Pompey's camp (which is just across it to the north).

104 Flight and death of Pompey Pompey finds he does not have support in Mytilene. The trumpet calls them to battle. Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus meets up with him at Aeginium.Pompey is well-supplied initially while Caesar is low on food. Caesar says that he was saved from total destruction only by Pompey "did not dare for some time to approach the fortifications and that his cavalry were slowed down in their pursuit by the narrow gaps [in the fortifications]. Caesar sends a message of peace to Scipio but this fails. Caesar exhorts his troops. The similar town Metropolis accedes to his demands and is spared. Antonius checks the attack temporarily. Publius Sulla attacks Dyrrachium. and they carry key tactical information to Pompey.. who kill Pompey.72 Pompey breaks out and defeats Caesar There are key deserters from Caesar. III.57 . Pompey's men continue to overconfidently plan for their winnings. or sudden alarm.58 Further abortive peace negotiations. Caesar's brilliant strategy causes Pompey's larger cavalry to be routed. Pompey's horses are starving." Pompey is hailed as imperator and his overconfident men begin to plan how they will divide up the spoils of victory.56 Fufius Calenus' activities in central Greece Calenus takes Delphi etc.112 Caesar pursues Pompey to Egypt and becomes involved in the dynastic war between Cleopatra and Ptolemy XIII . III. rout Caesar's men. two Allobroges. Caesar takes his camp..83 Caesar withdraws to Thessaly and encamps near Pharsalus.73 . and flees to Egypt. With his forces now united. which resists. The battle lines are drawn near Pharsalus and the Enipeus River (in Thessaly). Caesar notes ". Caesar attacks his fortifications. but eventually Pompey is also in need of supplies. 48. and the local peoples are more resistant to him. they failed to remind themselves of the everyday accidents of war. III.102 . Rumors of his defeat spread.. Pompey succeeds in breaking out of the siege by boat.99 Caesar secures victory at Pharsalus August 9.. But the king's regents make a secret plan--they send Achillas and Septimius. Pompey flees to his camp. along with Lucius Lentulus. Pompey's cavalry starve. The heroic pronouncement of Crastinus. III. III. Pompey's army comes up with him. attack the Caesarians from two sides.59 . Caesar has 1000 cavalry versus Pompey's 7000. as they note the cruel example set by Gomphi.. he attacks the Thessalian town of Gomphi.. notes the luxury there. or religious scruple--have caused great disasters. He is given refuge by Ptolemy XIII in deference to the ties of friendship and hospitality Pompey enjoyed with his father Ptolemy XII. but Caesar's cavalry is routed. Domitius is killed in the hills. Caesar marches through Thessaly to rest and resupply his troops." III. and Antioch etc. and he is nearly defeated (July 7).100-101 Naval operation in Sicily and South Italy III.. III. Cilicia. Pompey makes the mistake of repressing his troops' normal excitement for battle. and he allows his men to plunder ruthlessly. but breaks off the attack prematurely. how factors which are frequently trifling--mistaken suspicion.105 . Pompey flees to Larisa. He exhorts them to redeem themselves.84 .

Achillas comes with his forces to attack Caesar. He takes over the Pharus (island adjoining Alexandria with a great tower lighthouse). where he involves himself in the struggle for power between the boy Ptolemy XIII and his sister Cleopatra. Caesar takes Ptolemy XIII in his power.Miracles occur when Caesar achieves his victory over Pompey. and continues the fight against Achillas. . [Caesar abruptly ceases his commentary at this point]. Caesar heads on to Alexandria.

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