Caesar against Rome: The Great Roman Civil War

By Ramon L. Jiménez | Go to book overview

VII
The Siege of Massilia

Old as warfare itself, the siege was the endgame in countless ancient conflicts. The specialized devices and machines of the siege have a shorter history, but were used by Egyptians and Babylonians, and then by Assyrians early in the first millennium before the Christian era. Greeks and Carthaginians brought the ancient siege to its acme in their wars among themselves and with their neighbors, especially around Sicily at the end of the fifth century BCE. From them the Romans learned to execute the stunning feats of construction and mechanical engineering that typified the siege in its most advanced form. They also learned the value of perseverance, and became known for never abandoning a siege, no matter how long it took, as they demonstrated in their siege of Veii, an Etruscan city-state on a rocky plateau only twelve miles from Rome, which held out for more than seven years before it fell in 396.

Caesar's land and sea blockade of Massilia was the last of the great sieges of the Hellenistic age, the three centuries between the death of Alexander in 323 and the beginning of the Christian Era. During this period Roman aggressiveness, wealth, and ingenuity produced a host of successful sieges, and Caesar's assaults on Celtic oppida in Gaul were notable for their grand scale and resolute consummation. But the Greek Massiliots were better prepared and far more sophisticated than the Celts and Britons he had faced during the previous decade. At Massilia, after laying out his plan of attack, Caesar delegated its execution to Gaius Trebonius, a general who had participated in Caesar's prodigious assaults on Aduatuca, Avaricum, and Alesia during the Gallic War.

Trebonius was one of Caesar's most experienced legati and, like his commander, was another soldier-politician with a literary bent. As a Senator and tribune in the 50s, he had served the interests of the Triumvirate, then had fought under Caesar in Gaul and Britain, and had distinguished himself at the siege of Alesia. He was a friend and correspondent of Cicero's, and is most likely the original author of the detailed account of the siege of Massilia with which Caesar opens Book II of The Civil War. In its final form, it is the most exact report of such a siege that has survived from antiquity.

A siege was undertaken to capture a fortified place by undermining, breaking through, or getting over its walls in some way, or by depriving the defenders of food or water until they surrendered. Aside from this, the circumstances

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Caesar against Rome: The Great Roman Civil War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Maps and Figures ix
  • Preface xi
  • Chronology xiii
  • Part One - The Rise of Caesar 1
  • Prologue - Three Men 3
  • I - Sulla Against Caesar 7
  • II - Rome and Its Neighbors 15
  • III - Pompey and Cicero Conquer Rome 25
  • IV - The Road to Gaul and Back 43
  • Part Two Caesar and Pompey 63
  • V - Across the Rubicon 65
  • VI - The First Spanish Campaign 81
  • VII - The Siege of Massilia 99
  • VIII - Curio in Africa 115
  • IX - The Campaign in Macedonia 129
  • X - The Battle of Pharsalus 147
  • Part Three - Caesar and Cleopatra 165
  • XI - The Alexandrian War 167
  • XII - Veni, Vidi, Vici 187
  • XIII - The Last Campaign 205
  • XIV - The Ides of March 223
  • Epilogue 243
  • Notes 251
  • Selected Sources 261
  • Index of Persons 269
  • General Index 277
  • About the Author *
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