Caesars Commentaries : 3:59-70 Dyrrhachium

In the number of Caesar’s cavalry were two Allobrogians, brothers, named Roscillus and Aegus, the sons of Abducillus, who for several years possessed the chief power in his own state; men of singular valor, whose gallant services Caesar had found very useful in all his wars in Gaul. To them, for these reasons, he had committed the offices of greatest honor in their own country, and took care to have them chosen into the senate at an unusual age, and had bestowed on them lands taken from the enemy, and large pecuniary rewards, and from being needy had made them affluent. Their valor had not only procured them Caesar’s esteem, but they were beloved by the whole army. But presuming on Caesar’s friendship, and elated with the arrogance natural to a foolish and barbarous people, they despised their countrymen, defrauded their cavalry of their pay, and applied all the plunder to their own use. Displeased at this conduct, their soldiers went in a body to Caesar, and openly complained of their ill usage; and to their other charges added, that false musters were given in to Caesar, and the surcharged pay applied to their own use.

[3.60] Caesar, not thinking it a proper time to call them to account, and willing to pardon many faults, on account of their valor, deferred the whole matter, and gave them a private rebuke, for having made a traffic of their troops, and advised them to expect every thing from his friendship, and by his past favors to measure their future hopes. This however, gave them great offense, and made them contemptible in the eyes of the whole army. Of this they became sensible, as well from the reproaches of others, as from the judgment of their own minds, and a consciousness of guilt. Prompted then by shame, and perhaps imagining that they were not liberated from trial, but reserved to a future day, they resolved to break off from us, to put their fortune to a new hazard, and to make trial of new connections. And having conferred with a few of their clients, to whom they could venture to intrust so base an action, they first attempted to assassinate Caius Volusenus, general of the horse (as was discovered at the end of the war), that they might appear to have fled to Pompey after conferring an important service on him. But when that appeared too difficult to put in execution, and no opportunity offered to accomplish it, they borrowed all the money they could, as if they designed to make satisfaction and restitution for what they had defrauded: and having purchased a great number of horses, they deserted to Pompey along with those whom they had engaged in their plot.

[3.61] As they were persons nobly descended and of liberal education, and had come with a great retinue, and several cattle, and were reckoned men of courage, and had been in great esteem with Caesar, and as it was a new and uncommon event, Pompey carried them round all his works, and made an ostentatious show of them, for till that day, not a soldier, either horse or foot had deserted from Caesar to Pompey, though there were desertions almost every day from Pompey to Caesar: but more commonly among the soldiers levied in Epirus and Aetolia, and in those countries, which were in Caesar’s possession. But the brothers, having been acquainted with all things, either what was incomplete in our works, or what appeared to the best judges of military matters to be deficient, the particular times, the distance of places, and the various attention of the guards, according to the different temper and character of the officer who commanded the different posts, gave an exact account of all to Pompey.

[3.62] Upon receiving this intelligence, Pompey, who had already formed the design of attempting a sally, as before mentioned, ordered the soldiers to make ozier coverings for their helmets, and to provide fascines. These things being prepared, he embarked on board small boats and row galleys by night, a considerable number of light infantry and archers, with all their fascines, and immediately after midnight, he marched sixty cohorts drafted from the greater camp and the outposts, to that part of our works which extended toward the sea, and were at the furthest distance from Caesar’s greater camp. To the same place he sent the ships, which he had freighted with the fascines and light-armed troops; and all the ships of war that lay at Dyrrachium; and to each he gave particular instructions: at this part of the lines Caesar had posted Lentulus Marcellinus, the quaestor, with the ninth legion, and as he was not in a good state of health, Fulvius Costhumus was sent to assist him in the command.

[3.63] At this place, fronting the enemy, there was a ditch fifteen feet wide, and a rampart ten feet high, and the top of the rampart was ten feet in breadth. At an interval of six hundred feet from that there was another rampart turned the contrary way, with the works lower. For some days before, Caesar, apprehending that our men might be surrounded by sea, had made a double rampart there, that if he should be attacked on both sides, he might have the means of defending himself. But the extent of the lines, and the incessant labor for so many days, because he had inclosed a circuit of seventeen miles with his works, did not allow time to finish them. Therefore the transverse rampart which should make a communication between the other two, was not yet completed. This circumstance was known to Pompey, being told to him by the Allobrogian deserters, and proved of great disadvantage to us. For when our cohorts of the ninth legion were on guard by the sea-side, Pompey’s army arrived suddenly by break of day, and their approach was a surprise to our men, and at the same time, the soldiers that came by sea, cast their darts on the front rampart; and the ditches were filled with fascines: and the legionary soldiers terrified those that defended the inner rampart, by applying the scaling ladders, and by engines and weapons of all sorts, and a vast multitude of archers poured round upon them from every side. Besides, the coverings of oziers, which they had laid over their helmets, were a great security to them against the blows of stones which were the only weapons that our soldiers had. And therefore, when our men were oppressed in every manner, and were scarcely able to make resistance, the defect in our works was observed, and Pompey’s soldiers, landing between the two ramparts, where the work was unfinished, attacked our men in the rear, and having beat them from both sides of the fortification, obliged them to flee.

[3.64] Marcellinus, being informed of this disorder, detached some cohorts to the relief of our men, who seeing them flee from the camp, were neither able to persuade them to rally at their approach, nor themselves to sustain the enemy’s charge. And in like manner, whatever additional assistance was sent, was infected by the fears of the defeated, and increased the terror and danger. For retreat was prevented by the multitude of the fugitives. In that battle, when the eagle-bearer was dangerously wounded, and began to grow weak, having got sight of our horse, he said to them, “This eagle have I defended with the greatest care for many years, at the hazard of my life, and now in my last moments restore it to Caesar with the same fidelity. Do not, I conjure you, suffer a dishonor to be sustained in the field, which never before happened to Caesar’s army, but deliver it safe into his hands.” By this accident the eagle was preserved, but all the centurions of the first cohorts were killed, except the principal.

[3.65] And now the Pompeians, after great havoc of our troops, were approaching Marcellinus’s camp, and had struck no small terror into the rest of the cohorts, when Marcus Antonius, who commanded the nearest fort, being informed of what had happened, was observed descending from the rising ground with twelve cohorts. His arrival checked the Pompeians, and encouraged our men to recover from their extreme affright. And shortly after, Caesar having got notice by the smoke of all the forts, which was the usual signal on such occasions, drafted off some cohorts from the outposts, and went to the scene of action. And having there learned the loss he had sustained, and perceiving that Pompey had forced our works, and had encamped along the coast, so that he was at liberty to forage, and had a communication with his shipping, he altered his plan for conducting the war, as his design had not succeeded, and ordered a strong encampment to be made near Pompey.

[3.66] When this work was finished, Caesar’s scouts observed that some cohorts, which to them appeared like a legion, were retired behind the wood, and were on their march to the old camp. The situation of the two camps was as follows: a few days before, when Caesar’s ninth legion had opposed a party of Pompey’s troops, and were endeavoring to inclose them, Caesar’s troops formed a camp in that place. This camp joined a certain wood, and was not above four hundred paces distant from the sea. Afterward, changing his design for certain reasons, Caesar removed his camp to a small distance beyond that place; and after a few days, Pompey took possession of it, and added more extensive works, leaving the inner rampart standing, as he intended to keep several legions there. By this means, the lesser camp, included within the greater, answered the purpose of a fort and citadel. He had also carried an intrenchment from the left angle of the camp to the river, about four hundred paces, that his soldiers might have more liberty and less danger in fetching water. But he too, changing his design for reasons not necessary to be mentioned, abandoned the place. In this condition the camp remained for several days, the works being all entire.

[3.67] Caesar’s scouts brought him word that the standard of a legion was carried to this place. That the same thing was seen he was assured by those in the higher forts. This place was a half a mile distant from Pompey’s new camp. Caesar, hoping to surprise this legion, and anxious to repair the loss sustained that day, left two cohorts employed in the works to make an appearance of intrenching himself, and by a different route, as privately as he could, with his other cohorts amounting to thirty-three, among which was the ninth legion, which had lost so many centurions, and whose privates were greatly reduced in number, he marched in two lines against Pompey’s legion and his lesser camp. Nor did this first opinion deceive him. For he reached the place before Pompey could have notice of it; and though the works were strong, yet having made the attack with the left wing which he commanded in person, he obliged the Pompeians to quit the rampart in disorder. A barricade had been raised before the gates, at which a short contest was maintained, our men endeavoring to force their way in, and the enemy to defend the camp; Titus Pulcio, by whose means we have related that Caius Antonius’s army was betrayed, defending them with singular courage. But the valor of our men prevailed, and having cut down the barricade, they first forced the greater camp, and after that the fort which was inclosed within it; and as the legion on its repulse had retired to this, they slew several defending themselves there.

[3.68] But Fortune who exerts a powerful influence as well in other matters, as especially in war, effects great changes from trifling causes, as happened at this time. For the cohorts on Caesar’s right wing, through ignorance of the place, followed the direction of that rampart which ran along from the camp to the river, while they were in search of a gate, and imagined that it belonged to the camp. But when they found that it led to the river, and that nobody opposed them, they immediately climbed over the rampart, and were followed by all our cavalry.

[3.69] In the mean time Pompey, by the great delay which this occasioned, being informed of what had happened, marched with the fifth legion, which he called away from their work to support his party; and at the same time his cavalry were advancing up to ours, and an army in order of battle, was seen at a distance by our men who had taken possession of the camp, and the face of affairs was suddenly changed. For Pompey’s legion, encouraged by the hope of speedy support, attempted to make a stand at the Decuman gate, and made a bold charge on our men. Caesar’s cavalry, who had mounted the rampart by a narrow breach, being apprehensive of their retreat, were the first to flee. The right wing which had been separated from the left, observing the terror of the cavalry, to prevent their being overpowered within the lines, were endeavoring to retreat by the same way as they burst in; and most of them, lest they should be engaged in the narrow passes, threw themselves down a rampart ten feet high into the trenches; and the first being trodden to death, the rest procured their safety, and escaped over their bodies. The soldiers of the left wing, perceiving from the rampart that Pompey was advancing, and their own friends fleeing, being afraid that they should be inclosed between the two ramparts, as they had an enemy both within and without, strove to secure their retreat the same way they came. All was disorder, consternation, and flight; insomuch that, when Caesar laid hold of the colors of those who were running away, and desired them to stand, some left their horses behind, and continued to run in the same manner; others through fear even threw away their colors. Nor did a single man face about.

[3.70] In this calamity, the following favorable circumstance occurred to prevent the ruin of our whole army, viz., that Pompey suspecting an ambuscade (because, as I suppose, the success had far exceeded his hopes, as he had seen his men a moment before fleeing from the camp), durst not for some time approach the fortification; and that his horse were retarded from pursuing, because the passes and gates were in possession of Caesar’s soldiers. Thus a trifling circumstance proved of great importance to each party; for the rampart drawn from the camp to the river, interrupted the progress and certainty of Caesar’s victory, after he had forged Pompey’s camp. The same thing, by retarding the rapidity of the enemy’s pursuit, preserved our army.

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