Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
In 59 b.c.e., after the Roman Empire had expanded north and west into the area now known as France and Germany, Julius Caesar, already famous as a general and administrator, was appointed to govern the Roman territories inhabited by the Gauls. Here a strong, active government was required, and from the start Caesar kept records of the events of his governorship. The record eventually came to be known as Caesar’s Commentaries and to be regarded as an important record for posterity. Indeed, scholars and general readers have wished that Caesar had left a more complete record than he did. To expect a detailed history in the Commentaries is, however, to misunderstand the writer’s purpose. His intention was not to write a definitive history of the period of the Gallic Wars but rather to put down in writing what he, the Roman general and administrator, considered most important.
No one can understand the Commentaries without having some concept of the flux of migration and its consequent pressures in Europe during the first century before Christ. The Gallic peoples were under pressure from the Germanic peoples across the Rhine River who coveted the rich lands of the Gauls and were, in their turn, under pressure from migrations still farther to the east. Rome faced a double threat from the Germanic tribes: They were pressing constantly southward (and would eventually invade and dismember the Roman...
(The entire section is 1137 words.)
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