BATTLE OF THE SABIS. JULY-SEPTEMBER, 57 B. C.
MANY of the Belgian tribes had sued for peace. Not so the Nervii and their allies. Cæsar marched against them. At the river Sabis he was surprised by the barbarians, owing purely to insufficient scouting. While the legions were preparing to camp, the enemy fell violently upon them. They were caught unprepared, and came close to being overwhelmed. Cæsar was never, except at Munda, in so grave a danger. Finally, by superhuman exertions on his own part, and by cheerful gallantry on the part of his men, the tide of battle turned, and the barbarians were defeated with terrible slaughter. Out of sixty thousand Nervii, but five hundred remained fit for duty; of six hundred senators, but three returned from the battle. Cæsar then marched down the Sabis to a city of the Aduatuci (Namur), which after some trouble he took. The campaign had been successful and glorious. Cæsar had made serious but natural mistakes, of which happily the Gauls were not able enough to take advantage.
THE Nervii were the most warlike of the Belgians, and they not only absolutely refused to make terms, but reproached the other Belgians for submission. This people kept themselves entirely aloof from commerce or intercourse with other nations, and in this manner had preserved their native strength and hardihood. The Nervii had got the Atrebates and Veromandui to pool issues with them, and the Aduatuci were on the way to join the coalition. The women and children had been sent to a spot defended by a marsh, perhaps Mons, whose hill is now surrounded by low meadows once marshes. In three days' march Cæsar reached a point near modern Bavay, not far from the Sabis (Sambre), on which river, ten miles away, he learned from some prisoners that the Nervii and the adjoining allied tribes were awaiting the