Caesar, a History of the Art of War among the Romans down to the End of the Roman Empire, with a Detailed Account of the Campaigns of Caius Julius Caesar - Vol. 1

By Theodore Ayrault Dodge | Go to book overview

V.
THE BATTLES OF THE ARAR AND BIBRACTE. JUNE, 58 B. C.

CÆSAR had six legions. He came up with the Helvetii on the Saône above Lyon. Three quarters of the enemy's force had crossed the river. Cæsar by skillful dispositions surprised and destroyed the quarter remaining on the left bank. He then crossed and cautiously followed the rest, who, somewhat abashed, retreated. The Helvetii still had seventy thousand warriors, and were heading down the Loire. At one place Cæsar sought to attack them, but his well-conceived tactical combinations failed to work. Finding that his rations were growing short, Cæsar then ceased from pursuit and moved towards Bibracte, where was much corn. The enemy turned upon him, deeming him to have acted from fear, and offered battle. Cæsar drew up his legions expertly, and awaited their attack. The battle was hotly contested. At one period, having advanced too far, Cæsar was attacked in rear and forced to form two fronts. But Roman discipline finally prevailed; the victory was complete and overwhelming. A bare third of the Helvetians remained. These Cæsar compelled to return to their ancient homes. He had exhibited intelligent decision, coupled to a marked caution, in this first campaign.

AFTER crossing the Rhone, Cæsar had established a camp, not unlikely on the heights of Sathonay, south of where the Helvetii were lying while they effected a passage of the Arar. It was here that Labienus probably joined him, from the Geneva works, which it was now useless to hold. This gave Cæsar six legions, -- thirty thousand men; and the Ædui and the Province raised for him some four thousand horse. He was now ready to act with vigor.

Cæsar's reconnoitring parties, of which he had already learned to keep a more than usual number out, soon brought him word that the Helvetii were leisurely crossing the Arar

-68-

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