CÆSAR'S NEW PROVINCE. THE HELVETII. 60-58 B. C.
THE Gauls had always been the most dreaded foes of Rome. Whoever put an end to the danger would be the national hero. This fact Cæsar recognized. The Gauls were a fine, hearty people. They had many fortified towns, but the population lived mostly in open villages. There was good agricultural development, much pastoral and some mining industry. The men were warlike and brave, but fickle in temper. Their cavalry was excellent; the foot unreliable, though gallant. The common people were downtrodden by the knights and Druids; the powerful princes and cantons had the weaker population and tribes as clients, exacting service and affording protection. Just before Cæsar's arrival the Helvetii had prepared a descent from their Alpine home to the lowlands. Cæsar saw that this migration would complicate his problem, and refused them the passage they requested across the Roman Province, fortifying the Rhone below Geneva against them. The Helvetii made their way down the north bank of the Rhone. The Gallic tribes, some of whom were under Roman protection, appealed to Cæsar for help. The Helvetii were three hundred and sixty-eight thousand strong, and had begun to ravage the Gallic lands as they marched towards the Saône.
MANY months before Cæsar left for Gaul, reports reached Rome that the Gallic allies on the Arar (Saône) had been defeated by the Germans, and that the Helvetii were in arms. The news created great consternation. All feared a fresh invasion of barbarians such as had been barely averted by Marius. A general levy was ordered. Cæsar had asked as his province only for Cisalpine Gaul and Illyria. Under the pressure of danger the Senate added Transalpine Gaul to his charge.
The Gauls had a memorable record in Roman annals, but the greater part of their warlike feats lie buried in obscurity.